Tennis Preview – Catch Some Clay Court Action
April sees the ATP Tour move away from hard-courts and onto clay courts, and players will be looking to fine-tune their games to the slowest surface in tennis over the next few weeks with the French Open in May the ultimate goal.
However, the quarter-finals of the Davis take precedent first, before the Tour takes in the Fayez Sarofim & Co U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, the Gran Prix Hassan II, Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, the Gazprom Hungarian Open, the BMW Open, the Millennium Estoril Open, and the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open.
The announcement that Novak Djokovic has severed coaching ties with Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek came as no surprise this month. The former world number one has been well short of his “A” game in 2018 and he’s looking for the magic ingredient that can rekindle his form and his confidence before he starts his build-up towards next month’s French Open. However, the gut-feeling is that Djokovic may have achieved his lifetime goals and may struggle to find the motivation that used to continually drive him to be the best player he could be.
Meanwhile, as the biggest names in tennis continue to struggle to find their best form, John Isner took the opportunity to win in Miami, becoming the oldest player to win an ATP 1000 Tournament, which was especially impressive considering it was the 32-year-old’s first single’s victory at this level. However, Isner also enjoyed success in April’s other ATP 1000 Event in Indian Well where he won the doubles alongside Jack Sock. Juan Martin del Potro won the singles in Indian Wells.
Davis Cup Quarter-Finals
April kicks-off with the Davis Cup quarter-finals which take place between the 6-8 April. Italy host the 2017 Champions France in a match that will be played at the Valetta Cambiaso ASD in Genoa, and the likely Italian singles players Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi should be at home here on the outdoor clay courts.
Spain also have home advantage in their match with Germany, and the fact the match takes place on clay at the Plaza de Toros Valencia should be a significant advantage to the home team, as young German superstar Alexander Zverev prefers hardcourts.
Croatia aren’t much of a price to beat Kazakhstan, but Borna Coric and Marin Cilic should prove formidable opponents as they look to progress to the semi-finals in front of the Croatian fans who are likely to fill the Varazdin Arena.
Meanwhile, the USA Team has only had to travel to the Curb Event Center in Nashville from Miami this week as they look to land long odds-on against Belgium. It’s hard to look beyond them too with John Isner in such excellent form.
Fayez Sarofim & Co U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship – ATP 250 – April 9-15
The U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship is over 100 years old having started life back in 1910. However, it didn’t move to its present home in Houston until 2001. Since then, nine of the 17 renewals have been won by a player from the U.S. including Steve Johnson last year, Jack Sock in 2015, and John Isner in 2013. Those three players are likely to be in the field again this year, along with fellow Americans Sam Querrey and rising star Frances Tiafoe.
Gran Prix Hassan II – ATP 250 – April 9-15
Players who’ve had enough of America have the option of taking in the ATP Tour’s only African located event as the Gran Prix Hassan II is staged in Marrakesh. The tournament joined the tour in 1990, and Spain has enjoyed the most success with 7 wins this century. However, the last three have been won by a Slovakian, an Argentinean, and a Croatian courtesy of Martin Klizan, Federico Delbonis, and Borna Coric. The inform Coric is looking to defend for the first time in his career but could face the likes of Gael Monfils and Kyle Edmund. Meanwhile, Albert Ramos-Vinolas could bid to add his name to the list of successful Spaniards.
Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters – ATP 1000 – April 15-22
The Rolex Masters is another tennis tournament that has been staged for over 100 years and its location at the Monte-Carlo Country Club makes it a favourite with players and fans. Rafa Nadal has dominated this tournament when fit, winning it on eight consecutive occasions between 2005 and 2012 and returning to his best to win it in both 2016 and 2017. The event always draws a high-class field though, and the likes of Novak Djokovic, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, David Goffin, and Lucas Pouille have it on their schedule. However, if Nadal isn’t at his best after a couple of niggling injuries, it could be Dominic Thiem who steps up to win a big one.
Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell – ATP 500 – April 23-29
Since its inception in 1853, the Barcelona Open has been one of the biggest tennis tournaments in Spain, and its one that has been dominated by Spanish players who have won all but three of the renewals held this century. Nadal, who again has the tournament on his schedule, has won 10 of the last 13 editions, whilst Kei Nishikori won in both 2014 and 2015. Nadal is likely to be joined this year by fellow Spaniards Pablo Carreno-Busta and Roberto Bautista-Agut, whilst it will be interesting to see how NextGen Champion Hyeon Chung performs on clay as he continues his climb up the world rankings.
Gazprom Hungarian Open – ATP 250 – April 23-29
The Hungarian Open was only added to the ATP Schedule in 2017 when it was a direct replacement for the Romanian Open. It is a chance for some of the lower-ranked players to make a name for themselves, and it will be interesting to see whether last year’s winner Lucas Pouille chooses to defend or head to Barcelona to take on the big boys. If Pouille heads to Barcelona, then the likes of Filip Krajinovic, Damir Dzumhur, Marton Fucsovics, Aljaz Bedene, and Victor Troicki will see this as a great opportunity to grab a rare victory.
BMW Open – ATP 250 – April 30 to May 6
The BMW Open was first played in 1974 in Munich, Germany. 2015 winner Andy Murray is probably the most famous player to lift the title, but it is the home players who have dominated recently with four wins in the last six years. Phillip Kohlschreiber won in 2012 and 2016, but it was rising star Alexander Zverev who won this title in 2017 in a season in which he recorded five ATP victories. A repeat could be on the cards, as the youngster has been showing signs of coming back to his best recently.
Millennium Estoril Open – ATP 250 – April 30 to May 6
Portugal has hosted an ATP Tournament in every year since 1990. However, the Estoril Open was only added to the ATP Schedule in 2015. The three editions so far have been won by Pablo Carreno-Busta, Nicolas Almagro, and Richard Gasquet. The improving Pablo Carreno-Busta may well look to defend but could face the likes of Juan Martin del Potro if the in-form Argentinean chooses to use this tournament in his build-up to the French Open.
TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open – ATP 250 – April 30 to May 6
Turkey’s mission to make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world saw them create the Koza World of Sports Facility, which has been the home of the Paribas Istanbul Open since 2015. 7,500 fans can fit into its centre court and those that did in 2015 witnessed Roger Federer win the inaugural event. Diego Schwartzman won in 2016, whilst Marin Cilic won in 2017. Cilic beat Raonic in an epic battle to lift the trophy last season and the two are set to play once again.