REVIEWING THE CLAY SEASON

As we approach the second Grand Slam of the year the Spin takes a look back at what the clay season has taught us so far and what to expect heading into Roland Garros.
Most of the top women struggled during this clay court season and there were a few surprises in the winners category.



The season started off in Charleston with Andrea Petkovic, last year’s winner going down in straight sets to eventual winner, Angelique Kerber, who beat Madison Keys in 3 tough hard fought sets, coming back from a break down in the third set to clinch the match.  Kerber, who was doing quite poorly at the start of the season seems to have found her way back as she followed up that victory in Charleston by taking out defending champion and No. 1 seed, Maria Sharapova in 3 thrilling sets of tennis.  She would follow that up by beating Caroline Wozniacki in a hard fought 3 setter, coming back from a break down in the final and battling back to break Wozniacki as she served for the match.



 Madrid was a bit of a disaster for the top women as Serena Williams after an easy win over Carla Suarez-Navarro in the quarter-finals lost in straight sets in the semifinal to the eventual champion, Petra Kvitova.  Last year’s champion, Maria Sharapova was bundled out in straight sets by Svetlana Kuznetsova and Simona Halep, last year’s finalist lost in the first round to Alize Cornet, who would then go on to lose to Roberta Vinci.


Over in Rome, Serena Williams pulled out of her third round match against Christina McHale citing a sore elbow.  Eventual champion Sharapova battled against a very tough Carla Suarez-Navarro winning it 6-1 in the third.  Suarez-Navarro played a really hard fought match to take out the No. 2 seed, Simona Halep, who I have to say has not performed as well as I thought she would during this clay season.

Eugenie Bouchard continues her slump, serving for the match 3 times against eventual runner-up Suarez-Navarro, but just could not get the job done. 
What has the clay season taught us so far?  It has mostly taught me that there is no clear cut favourite on the women’s side heading into Paris.   There are many questions that will need to be asked but for now the ones on the top of my list are as follows:
·         Was Serena’s withdrawal precautionary?  If so, maybe it is a good decision.  Is the elbow a more serious issue?  If not, then the withdrawal was a sensible decision;
·         What do we take away from Simona Halep’s performance during the last 3 weeks of the European clay court season?  Is she bending to the weight of expectations or is she in that mode where she is concentrating her energies on trying to bag her first Grand Slam?
·         Caroline Wozniacki made vast improvements in her game during her run to the final in Stuttgart.  Since then she has severed the coaching relationship with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.  I have my own personal views on this but this is for another time.
·         With Sharapova securing the No. 2 ranking heading into Paris, the win in Rome was not only essential to her title defence, it will also make her more relaxed as she heads into what is undoubtedly her best surface.  Knowing that she can only meet her nemesis in the final of the French Open should make her play commanding tennis. 
·         Does the fact that Petra Kvitova has played great tennis heading into Roland Garros means that she has a chance to play into the second week? 
The Spin team will have its preview post up on Friday just after the draw.  In addition, the Spin Team will be breaking down the women’s draw on RealzTennisPodcast this Saturday so remember to listen to us to hear who we think will not make the second week as well as the upset specials.