Rafael nadal, babolat exhibition, Roland Garros 2018

Good bye hard courts and hello clay! With spring comes the clay court season that leads to the second Grand Slam of the year, Roland Garros.
Although French players have had little success on this surface in recent years, clay was invented in Cannes, south of France … by English players William and Ernest Renshaw.

Grand Prix Hassan II, Marrakech, 8-14 April

Defending champion: Pablo Andujar
Category: 250
Prize money: €586,140
Who is playing: Pablo Carreno Busta, Kyle Edmund, Gilles Simon, Philipp Kohlschreiber

From 1990 to 2015 the tournament was held annually at the Complexe Al Amal in Casablanca, before relocating to Marrakesh in 2016. It is currently the only ATP event held in Africa. Two Moroccans have won the title on home soil: Hicham Arazi in 1997 and Younes El Aynaoui in 2002. Former champions include Thomas Muster, Gilles Simon, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Stan Wawrinka.
Last year, Pablo Andujar (number 355) became the lowest-ranked ATP champion in 20 years, beating first-time finalist Kyle Edmund to win the Grand Prix Hassan II for a record third time.

2019 champion: Benoît Paire

Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, 14-21 April

Defending champion: Rafael Nadal
Category: 1000
Prize money: €5,585,030
Who is playing: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Stan Wawrinka

The first appearance of lawn tennis in the Principality of Monaco was in January 1880, when a court with a covering of lime was laid down on the lawn of the pigeon-shooting range at the rear of the Hotel de Paris. In April 1892 Prince Charles III approved a proposal from Comte Bertora, the administrator of the Société des Bains de Mer, the local authority, for the installation of two permanent clay courts and a croquet lawn.
The first tournament was held in March 1896 and was won by George Hillyard. The following year began the start of the great days of the tournament, supported for a decade by the Doherty brothers.
It changed venue several times but the tournament has always attracted the greatest champions: Nicola Pietrangeli, Ilie Nastase, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander all won here in the past. Rafael Nadal won the title eight consecutive times between 2005 and 2012, making him the first player to win eight titles in a row at the same tournament. Last year, he won the title for the 11th time, dispatching Nishikori 6-3 6-2 in the final.

The first of three Masters 1000 played on clay, the Monte Carlo tournament is a fan favourite thanks to its magnificent location and scenic views on the Mediterranean Sea.

2019 champion: Fabio Fognini

Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, 22-28 April

Defending champion: Rafael Nadal
Category: 500
Prize money: €2,746,455
Who is playing: Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, Denis Shapovalov, Karen Khachanov, Fabio Fognini

The Barcelona Open, better known in Spain as Trofeo Conde de Godo or simply Godo has been held at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona 1899 since 1953.
American players won the first five editions of the tournament but only one has won it since: Todd Martin in 1998. All the best clay-court specialists have lift the trophy – that weighs 13 kg! – from Borg to Wilander, Muster to Ferrero. Rafael Nadal has won the singles title a record 11 times. In 2017, the centre court was named “Pista Rafa Nadal”.

The tournament will this year pay tribute to Manuel Orantes to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first victory here. The 1969 final that Orantes won over Manolo Santana (6-4 7-5 6-4) is registered as the longest is the history of the competition. It started on May 18, but they could barely play 8 games because of rain. As the next day, both players had to travel to Zagreb to play a Davis Cup tie against Yugoslavia, the decision was made to postpone the match, which would resume 4 months later, on September.

Nadal claims 11th Barcelona title
Stefanos Tsitsipas makes Greek tennis history in Barcelona
Barcelona 2018: the Lopez capture the doubles crown

2019 champion: Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem, new King of Barcelona
Thiem stuns Nadal to reach the Barcelona final
Barcelona 2019: Nadal ends David Ferrer’s run


Gazprom Hungarian Open, Budapest, 22-28 April

Defending champion: Marco Cecchinato
Category: 250
Prize money: €586,140
Who is playing: Borna Coric, Marco Cecchinato, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Laslo Djere, Hubert Hurkacz

In 2017, Budapest replaced the former ATP 250 event in Bucharest, Romania. This is the first ATP event hosted in Hungary.
Lucas Pouille was the winner of the inaugural edition, defeating Aljaz Bedene in the final. In 2018, Marco Cecchinato won his first ATP title in Budapest after reaching the final as a lucky loser, defeating John Millman in straight sets. A few weeks later, he defeated Pablo Carreno Busta, David Goffin and Novak Djokovic en route to the French Open semifinals.

2019 champion: Matteo Berrettini

Second career title (after Gstaad in 2018) for Matteo Berrettini who rallied from a set down to beat qualifier Filip Krajinovic. With this victory, the Italian will make his entry to the top 40 for the first time.
Number one seed Marin Cilic lost to Pablo Cuevas while number two seed Borna Coric lost to eventual runner-up Krajinovic in the quarterfinals. Number three seed and defending champion Marco Cecchinato withdrew due to illness.

BMW Open by FWU, Munich, 29 April-5 May

Defending champion: Alexander Zverev
Category: 250
Prize money: €586,140
Who is playing: Alexander Zverev, Marco Cecchinato, Kyle Edmund, Diego Schwartzman, Roberto Bautista Agut

The International Tennis Championships of Bavaria was first held in 1900 (on grass), but the BMW Open by FWU was first staged at Munich’s Iphitos Tennis Club in 1974.
Alexander Zverev will try to win for a record third time in a row. Last year he defeated fellow countryman and 3-time champion Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-3.

2019 champion: Christian Garin

Millenium Estoril Open, 29 April-5 May

Defending champion: Joao Sousa
Category: 250
Prize money: €586,140
Who is playing: Kevin Anderson, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Fabio Fognini, Gaël Monfils, Alex De Minaur, Frances Tiafoe, Joao Sousa

The Estoril Open was created in 2015 to replace the historic Portugal Open, which was canceled due to lack of sponsorships. The Portugal Open was both an ATP and WTA event. The men’s tournament was created in 1990 and has been won by current or future number 1s Thomas Muster (1995 and 1996), Carlos Moya (2000), Juan Carlos Ferrero (2001), Novak Djokovic (2007), and Roger Federer (2008).
Richard Gasquet was the winner of the first edition of the Estoril Open in 2015. Joao Sousa became the first Portuguese to win the tournament last year. He saved two match points against Pedro Sousa in the first round and defeated Next Gen players Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frances Tiafoe to claim the title.

Read more:
Estoril Open 2018: Joao Sousa triumphs
Estoril Open 2017: Pablo Carreno Busta defeats Gilles Muller

2019 champion: Stefanos Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas triumphs in Estoril
Estoril Open 2019: Tsitsipas and Goffin will face off in the semifinals
Estoril Open 2019: Tsitsipas and Monfils in. Fognini and Chardy out


Mutua Madrid Open, 5-12 May

Defending champion: Alexander Zverev
Category: 1000
Prize money: €7,279,270
Who is playing: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev

From 2002 to 2008, the Madrid Masters were played on indoor hard courts at the Madrid Arena a couple weeks before Paris Bercy Masters. In 2009 the tournament transitioned from hard court to outdoor clay and replaced the Hamburg Open as the second Masters of the European clay court swing. Since then, the event is held at the Caja Majica which will host the 2019 Davis Cup finals.
In 2012, owner Ion Tiriac decided to swith to blue clay to “improve the experience for television viewers.”
Top players complained about the clay’s slipperiness, Nadal and Djokovic said they would not return to Madrid if the clay remained blue, and the tournament returned to the traditional red clay for the 2013 edition. Despite being played on red clay again, the conditions of play are made more difficult than Rome or Monte Carlo by altitude: Madrid is 650 meters above sea level and balls fly faster through thin air.

Last year, in the quarterfinals, Dominic Thiem ended Nadal’s 21-match and record 50-set winning streak on clay. Thiem had been the last man to take a set and win against Nadal on clay the previous year in Rome. The Austrian went on to reach the final, only to lose to Alexander Zverev in straight sets.

Read more:
Do you really know what clay is made of?

2019 champion: Novak Djokovic

Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, 12-19 May

Defending champion: Rafael Nadal
Category: 1000
Prize money: €5,791,280
Who is playing: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev

The Rome tournament, the last big tournament before Roland Garros has a long, rich and controversial history. From 1930 to 1934, the Italian International Championships were held in Milan at the Tennis Club, but dictator Mussolini wanted the event in his capital, Rome, so the tournament moved to the Foro Italico (then called Foro Mussolini) in 1935. The Foro Italico was built form 1928 to 1935 as part of Mussolini’s plan to revive the glory of ancient Rome. He wanted “to create a forum that would surpass those of Caesar and Augustus”. The Foro Italico also contains the 82,000-seat Stadio Olimpico, home of Roma and Lazio football teams. Serie A itself was founded by the Duce, the first leader to use sport as a propaganda tool, even before Hitler.
The Stadium is still haunted by marble incarnations of the fascists human ideal: you can walk across mosaics that spell out “Duce”, a marble obelisk with the words “Mussolini Dux” still stands today, and 4-meter nude statues of sportsmen, from boxers to tennis players surround both the Stadio dei Marni (Foro’s track), the Nicola Pietrangeli court. Weird isn’t it?
The tournament was also filled with controversies in the 70’s, when Italian players (especially Adriano Panatta) received a little help from officials (read more below). But thankfully gone are those days, and a new King of Clay rules in Rome: Rafael Nadal, who recorded an eighth victory last year.
The final was interrupted by rain with Nadal a break down in the third set. But he rallied back to defeat Zverev 6-1 1-6 6-3 and claim his second Masters 1000 of the season. Beaten by Nadal in the semifinals, defending champion Novak Djokovic fell outside the Top 20 for the first time since October 2006.

Read more:
A little help for Adriano Panatta
Italian Open 1978: silenzio cretini!
Adriano Panatta, the Michelangelo of tennis

2019 champion: Rafael Nadal

9th title for Rafa in Rome, a record-breaking 34th Masters 1000 tournament title. He ends his wait for a first title this season, just at the perfect time, one week before he begins an other title defence in Paris. Nadal completes a fine week at Foro Italico, with straight set wins over Chardy, Basilashvili, Verdasco and Tsitsipas, and a 6-0 4-6 6-1 victory over Djokovic in the final.
Nadal was just too good for Djokovic, exhausted by his marathon matches against Del Potro and Schwartzman.

Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open, 19-25 May

Defending champion: Marton Fucsovics
Category: 250
Prize money: €586,140
Who is playing: Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev, Benoît Paire, Jaume Munar

The Geneva Open is staged at the Tennis Club de Genève, the oldest and largest club in Switzerland, founded in 1896.
The tournament, held annually from 1980 to 1991, crowned 3 world number 1s: Bjorn Borg (1981), Mats Wilander (1982 and 1983), and Thomas Muster (1991), as well as 2 Swiss players, Claudio Mezzadri in 1987 and Marc Rosset in 1989. In 2015, after a 24-year hiatus, Thomaz Bellucci captured the title, followed by home crowd favorite Stan Wawrinka in 2016 and 2017.
In 2018, 38 years after the success of Balazs Taroczy during the first edition of tournament, a Hungarian player has once again lift the trophy. Marton Fucsovics, winner of Wawrinka in the semifinals, claimed his first ATP title with a 6-2 6-2 win over Peter Gojowczyk. The German beat Karlovic, Ferrer, Fognini and Seppi en route to his second final of the year (loss to Tiafoe in Delray Beach).

Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon, 19-25 May

Defending champion: Dominic Thiem
Category: 250
Prize money: €586,140
Who is playing: Denis Shapovalov, Roberto Bautista Agut, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych

From 1987 to 2009 Lyon held an indoor hard court tournament, traditionally played a few weeks before Paris Bercy. Yannick Noah won the inaugural edition, beating Joakim Nyström in the final. Other past champions include John McEnroe, Pete Sampras (3 times), Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Andy Roddick. The event moved to Montpellier in 2010 and is now known as the Open Sud de France.
In 2017, the Open de Lyon returned to the ATP Tour calendar as a clay-court tournament, replacing the Open de Nice. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga captured the title, his 15th career title, his first ever on clay. Dominic Thiem was crowned last year after a hard fought 3-set victory over Gilles Simon in the final. Two weeks later he went on to reach his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal).

Roland Garros, Paris, 26 May-9 June

Defending champion: Rafael Nadal
Category: Grand Slam
Prize money: €
Who is playing: everyone except Sharapova, Auger-Aliassime, Kyrgios, Raonic, Berdych

Stay tuned for more Roland Garros coverage, and in the mean time, check out our Roland Garros FAQs and our tips for your day at Roland Garros.

Who will win Roland Garros 2019?

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Pictures:
1: pic taken by Tennis Buzz at the Babolat event at Roland Garros last year.
2: Banco Sabadell
3: MJN

If you’re interested in history of tennis, I recommend you the read of two books:
– Love game: a history of tennis, from victorian pastime to global phenomenon by Elizabeth Wilson
– The golden days of tennis on the French riviera 1874-1939 by Alan Little

Adriano Panatta

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

Panatta had much in common with Ilie Nastase in that both were under-achievers who never fully exploited their talent but gave immense pleasure and attracted huge followings. The obvious differences between them lay in playing method and conduct. Nastase was the more flamboyant competitor but his behavior was often offensive. Panatta had more power and his deportment was elegantly disciplined as his tennis. He was a heart-throb who milked the role in an engaging way, rather as John Newcombe did. His teenaged fans could admire the man and his tennis without the reservations necessary in Nastase’s case. Panatta was a model of the tall, dark and handsome hero or, to flaunt another cliché, the strong, silent man. At the same time he could be demonstrative in the Italian way and the ladies did not mind at all when he put on his sulky look or tossed back his forelock.

At six feet and almost 13 stone Panatta was a fine athlete, though the professional sportsman was always slightly at odds with his well developed taste for food and wine and the dolce vita. He was a renowned, attractive sportsman who fitted perfectly into fashionable Roman society. When he appeared at the Foro Italico the public’s excitement was so passionately partisan – to the point of conducting matches rather than merely watching them – that players from overseas felt no more popular than early Christians did at the Colosseum. In Panatta’s era the crowd’s hostility towards his opponents was sometimes frightening. Nor was justice consistently evenhanded. But all that was not Panatta’s fault. His presence simply kindled emotional fires that occasionally out of control.

On the other hand one would not wish Italians to be anything but warmly appreciative of tennis players whose brush-strokes respect the nation’s proud artistic traditions. Panatta was not the first.
Two particularly interesting characters 30 years ago were Beppe Merlo and Nicola Pietrangeli. Merlo was a dapper little chap who defied most of the conventions except in his ability to put the ball where his opponents didn’t want it and, often, didn’t expect it. He used a short grip and had no more than a hint of a backswing. No more than a hint of a service, either. He just prodded the ball into play. Merlo’s racket was so loosely strung that his strokes were noiseless save for a muffled plunk. But he was an artful nudger commanding a deceptive variety of spin. Merlo’s tennis was so eccentric, so baffling, that opponents ran the risk of getting their legs knotted.

By contrast Pietrangeli was a classically conventional clay-courter. Born in Tunis of Franco-Russian parents, he could have been a top-class footballer. Instead, Pietrangeli played and won more Davis Cup matches than any other player, took Italy to two challenge rounds with the help of a giant called Orlando Sirola, and twice won the French championship. He played with enviable economy of effort and had such a deft touch that occasionally, like Manuel Santana, he could make a drop-shot spin back over the net. In 1962 Pietrangeli and Nikki Pilic established a Wimbledon record with a 46-game set. Pietrangeli was also an active socialite who often stayed up half the night, arguing that there was nothing much to do in the mornings except sleep.

Panatta first caught ou attention when he beat Clark Graebner in the 1968 Queensland championships in Brisbane. It soon became evident that for all his size and strength and his agility at the net, Panatta was most at ease when using the drop-and-lob routine to design leisurely, almost languid patterns across sunlit clay courts. […]

His annus mirabilis was 1976, when he won the Italian and French championships in three weeks and – with the help of Corrado Barazzutti in singles and Paolo Bertolucci in doubles – brought Italy the Davis Cup for the only time in the competition’s history. It helped that four out of six ties were played at home. Panatta’s individual triumphs in Rome and Paris were remarkable for the fact that in each tournament he came within a point of losing in the first round.

In Rome, Kim Warwick had no fewer than 11 match points. In Paris, Pavel Hutka, an ambidextruous Czechoslovak newcomer to Roland Garros, had only one match point – but the memory of that point is vivid. Silence fell like a pall over the sunny stadium as Panatta prepared to serve. Fault. Both men fidgeted. There was no other movement, no sound. The birds had stopped singing. Hutka clipped the net cord in returning the second ball. Panatta, dashing in, had to break his stride but hit deep and stood towering at the net, waiting to see what Hutka and the gods had in store for him. Hutka’s lob looked a winner but Panatta’s vertical take-off achieved a feeble return off the frame. Hutka’s passing shot looked a formality but Panatta guessed right, flung himself headlong like a torpedo and hit a winning volley – again, off the frame. Whereupon Panatta crashed on to the court, the ground seemed to shiver and the stadium thundered with applause. That was the most amazing point I ever saw.
After that it was all profit. Even Bjorn Borg, champion in the two preceding years, could not cope with the imaginatively adventurous Panatta, who no longer recognized any distinction between the improbable and the inevitable.

Panatta’s arresting presence and artistically macho tennis also gave us memorable hours of pleasure when he was playing on grass, a surface hostile to the graces. And at Wimbledon in 1976, when he was playing Charlie Pasarell, the was an incident that told us much about the man. As Panatta was about to serve, a sparrow twittered away on the grass a few yards behind him. Distracted, Panatta gently olled a ball towards it, but the sparrow could not or would note move. So Panatta strolled back, picked up the fluffy chirper in a strong yet tender hand, and carefully took it across a spectator. Panatta had a way with birds. He had a way with tennis, too. The game was a means of expression, a form of communion with the ghosts of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Thanks to Mauro, enjoy a few videos of Wawrinka, Goerges and Nadal at the Foro Italico:

Stanislas Wawrinka:

Julia Goerges:

Rafael Nadal:

Rome is a gr8 tournament. Only complain is that it can be hard to focus when there is naked guys around the court:

Follow Sofia on Twitter: @Sofia_Arvidsson