The first clay court masters tournament of the year has started (Monte Carlo Masters) and the big question is exactly what I stated in a previous post – who can beat Novak Djokovic?
Some other questions we need to think about:
A couple of youngsters has started well in 2016, with for example Kyrgios, Coric, Fritz and Zverev all playing better than expected. Does one of them have the game to make it on clay? Well, Coric reached the final in Marrakech last week and Zverev has also had success on the dirt. It’s more difficult to see Kyrgios and Fritz do well as they don’t have the same patience, but on the other hands there is plenty of time to improve for these guys.
I don’t really want to place Thiem in the youngsters category anymore, although he really belongs there – he has in my opinion the ability to go far in both Monte Carlo and Rome and possibly also Roland Garros. Could even be a threat to Djokovic on a good day.
From the top guys, it will be interesting to see Federer back on the court after a few months break since Australian Open. Fed fans shouldn’t expect too much though, because he must be rusty when it comes to match play. Maybe by Roland Garros he should have picked up the pace enough for a quarter-final or semi-final.
Murray hasn’t been playing well since he got to the Australian Open final. Clay is far from his favourite surface so I don’t think we can expect anything great form him. Nadal on the other hand seems to have a huge hurdle mentally to overcome when it comes to playing Djokovic. I think that he can reach the final, but beating Djokovic seems like a TALL order these days.
Wawrinka loves clay and Monte Carlo, but he hasn’t been showing good form for quite a while. If he gets a few matches under his belt he will be a dangerous, but I can’t put him as anything much more than a joker in the deck as it stands now.
Clay court lovers such as Ferrer, Delbonis, Monaco and many of the other Spaniards and South-Americans who live on the red dirt, should be ready to take a top scalp or two and in my view this is Djokovic’s biggest threat – playing an underdog who has nothing to lose, loves the surface and has a great day at the job.
We of course have a few other dark horses that can do bigger things: Monfils, Kohlschreiber, Tsonga, and Gasquet, although none of them has the game to beat Djokovic at the moment.
Not much hope in this prediction for you people who aren’t into Djokovic extending his run of victories, but there simply seems to be a huge gap between the Serb and the rest at the moment. Let’s hope the tournament gets more exciting than this.