Lawn Tennis, Paris Open, Lawn Tennis Magazine
On To The Clay
By Tripp Mateschitz, Lawn Tennis Analyst, Posted: Saturday, April 11, 2009 2:44pm PST USA
On To The Clay, Rafael Nadal, Lawn Tennis Magazine Monte Carlo--(lawntennis.org) Each year after the Sony Ericsson Open is completed in early April, the clay court season begins on the ATP Tour and the WTA Tour as the players gear up towards May's French Open in Paris, the second grand slam of the year.

In addition to a change of surface from hardcourts to claycourts, the players can look forward to playing longer points from the baseline and to executing acrobatic slides on the soft surface.

Another plus that a claycourt offers is continued play during a light shower of rain. The dirt-type surface absorbs

Rafael Nadal of Spain
Nadal, nicknamed the King of Clay, has never lost a match at the French Open, taking the title in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

the moisture which would halt play on a hardcourt. On hardcourts during rain, the lines quickly become a slippery hazard.

Next week the ATP Tour heads to Monte Carlo, Monaco for the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters which is to be played on outdoor clay. World number one Rafael Nadal of Spain leads a field of nine of the top ten players entered including the 2008 finalist and world number two Roger Federer of Switzerland.

Nadal defeated Federer 7-5, 7-5 in the final last year before winning his fourth consecutive French Open singles title at Paris. Nadal, nicknamed the King of Clay, has never lost a match at the French Open, taking the title in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

The 22 year old Nadal diversified his winnings last year as he as took the gold medal in singles at the Summer Olympics as well as the Wimbledon singles title.

But the Spaniard perhaps still is best known for his claycourt prowess as he holds several claycourt records and is undefeated in his 45 career five set matches on clay. Nadal is 22-1 in claycourt finals and won a record 81 consecutive claycourt matches from April 2005 to May 2007.

Nadal's 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 win over Federer in last year's French Open final resulted in Federer's first 6-0 set loss since 1999 and the most one-sided match ever between the two. I'm sorry Roger, Nadal would say after the match.

The WTA Tour lands in Charleston, South Carolina next week at the Family Circle Cup. The defending women's champion and world number one, Serena Williams of the USA has withdrawn with a leg injury. However her sister and the Wimbledon champion Venus Williams is to be the second seed after the Russian Elena Dementieva.

And in a dramatic potential early meeting, Williams, the 2004 Charleston champion, could meet the unseeded Sesil Karantancheva in her first match after receiving a first round bye. In 2005, Karantancheva defeated Williams in the third round at the French Open 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 before the result was removed due to a positive drug test from the 19 year old Kazakhstani tennis player.

Karatancheva at the French Open that year would become the youngest female to reach the quarterfinals of a grand slam tournament since Martina Hingis of Switzerland in 1996. Hingis coincidentally was also banned from the WTA Tour for two years last year due to a positive drug test.

Karantancheva tested positive on two drug tests for nandrolone, but after serving a two year ban, she won two ITF or minor league level tournaments last year before reaching her current WTA Tour singles ranking of 131.

Another comeback player, the 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson of the USA was awarded a maindraw wildcard.

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