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

Henri Leconte, Davis Cup 1991

From Pete Sampras’ autobiography, A champion’s mind:

Davis Cup didn’t mean much to me when I was growing up. I don’t remember watching it on television (and it isn’t like Davis Cup was all over the tube back in the pre-cable days). So I had no preexisting reverence for the event. This made it tough to commit to Davis Cup because, like most top players, I put the ability to perform at my peak in Grand Slams at the top of my priorities. And Davis Cup asked for a lot, timewise.

In 1991, France put together a magical run under captain Yannick Noah, a very popular former player and French Open champion. Guy Forget and Henri Leconte, two flashy lefties, carried the French squad to its first final in the Open era. And the French also had the home-court advantage over their final-rounds rivals – the United States. They chose to play the tie on fast carpet in an indoor stadium in Lyon.

When France announced the surface, US captain Tom Gorman had a stroke of genius – at least theoretically. Although I had lost my US Open title in the “ton of bricks” match, I was the best fast-court player in the nation. I was the ideal guy to have on the squad alongside Andre Agassi. But Gorman seemed to completely forget that I was a rookie on the tour, and he discounted the unique pressure for which Davis Cup is renowned. For some reason, playing for your country on a team can really get to you. Some players are inspired and react heroically; others get cold feet and feel intimidated by nationalistic pressure. Throwing a green player into the cauldron in an away final before a wildly partisan crowd was an enormous gamble.

When I arrived in Lyon, I found the anxiety and stress surprisingly high. I guess that’s partly because all the USTA officials were around, like they always are at Davis Cup, looking over the team’s shoulder. It also had something to do with the fact that this Davis Cup final was a huge, huge deal in France – it seemed like the entire French national press corps had descended on the venue (the Gerland Sports Palace) for the final, hoping to record how France won its first Davis Cup since the days of yore when the famed “Four Musketeers” – Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet, and René Lacoste – reigned over international tennis.

We had a team Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel in Lyon the day before the start of the tie. It was prepared by a famous chef, but even that event was slightly strained, because we were together with a bunch of tennis officials, and we all had to wear a coat and tie. I’ve got nothing against appropriate dress, but it seemed that everything was ceremonial, forced, difficult … when what we really needed as a team was to relax. All these things bore down on me extra hard, because I had been nominated as the number one singles player for the United States. It was like an NFL rookie quaterback getting his first start in the Super Bowl.

Gorman was also uptight; that became evident to me. We were always having these team meetings, and to me that didn’t make sense. They just magnified everything and added to the stress. All my life, I preferred to operate with a low profile – I’d rather be understated than dramatic, cool and aloof rather than confrontational and all gung ho. I just don’t believe in making things bigger than they need to be, even some things that may seem awfully big, like winning the Davis Cup. At the end of the day, it’s easier to take the attitude that they’re just tennis matches; you go out, do your best, let the chips fall where they may.

I was happy to talk with Gore, our veteran captain and a former Davis Cup star himself. I was glad to hear what Andre Agassi thought. But these meetings – everyone was just sitting around talking about the next day’s pratice or the upcoming pairings. Ken Flach, one of the doubles players (partnered with Robbie Seguso), looked at me in one of those meetings and asked, “You going to serve and volley on both serves, Pete?” I just looked at him, thinking, I’m one of the top players in the world, and you’re a doubles specialist who can’t even make it in singles. Where do you get off, asking how I’m going to play?
It sounds arrogant, but I was just feeling prickly and uptight. At the same time, though, I never went into a match with a cut-and-dried game plan. I knew my own strengths and the kind of game I felt most comfortable playing, and tried to be aware of what my opponents did well or badly, and how to get to their games. But I always liked to “feel” my way into a match, fine-tune what I would do based on my level of play and the feedback I was getting from across the net.

The quality of my serve on any given day often dictated how aggressively I played. My feeling for how I moved on a given surface (or on a given day), combined with the quality of my opponent’s return game, determined how often I followed my serve to the net. I operated by instinct, figuring things out as I went along. Flach’s question put me on the spot, seeking a commitment I wasn’t prepared to make. It was innocent enough, I guess; my reaction spoke volumes about how defensive and tense I was feeling.

On top of everything else, the French singles players were veterans capable of playing lights-out tennis. There were no question marks about the team; if anyone could handle pressure of playing at home, it was these guys. The adulation of the home crowd would inspire them. If the fast carpet suited my game, it suited theirs just as well.

I was our number one singles player, but the draw determined that France’s number one (Forget) would open the proceedings againt our number two, Andre. I watched from the bench, cheering Andre on as he took care of business to put us up 1-0. I was impressed and slightly intimidated by the crowd. The place held just over seven thousand, but it was sold out, so the overall effect was of a huge, deafening crowd. My moment of reckoning was rapidly approaching; I was up next, the US number one against France’s number two, Leconte.

Pete Sampras, 1991 Davis Cup final

What happened was, I froze. It was that bad. It was deer-in-the-headlights-grade paralysis. Notice that I didn’t say “I choked”. As I wrote before, there is a big difference. Freezing is worse. It prevents you from getting to that critical point where you can choke (or not).
The score just seemed to fly by, like so many of Leconte’s winners. When I was serving, I’d stand up at the line and wait, while the crowd was going nuts. I just stood there, absorbing all the karmic energy, waiting for them to quiet down. That was a big mistake – I should have asserted greater control over the situation by walking away from the service notch to wait until they calmed down. That would have represented control, and playing at my pace. It was something I learned in Lyon that would come in handy in many later matches.

I lost to Leconte in straight sets and left the court shell-shocked.

On Saturday, the French won the doubles to take a 2-1 lead. On the decisive final day, I faced Forget in the first singles match to keep the US hopes alive. I hadn’t had enough time to process what happened on Friday, or to identify the lessons from my awful first-day experience. I gave Forget only token resistance as he clinched the Cup for France in four sets.

I felt terrible afterward. I’d been overwhelmed. For all the talk about Davis Cup being a team thing, I’d felt very lonely out there – as alone as I would ever feel on a tennis court. Sure, the other guys were right there on the bench, encouraging me. And you have your captain sitting on court with you so you can talk and get advice on changeovers. But people make too much of that. It’s not like you can hand your racket off to a teammate and say, “Hey, I’m struggling with this, how about picking up the slack?”
It was a tense and miserable week. Gus, who was my roommate on the trip, tells me that the night we lost, we went to sleep pretty early. I woke some hours later, clearly in the throes of some nightmare, and screamed – at the top of my lungs – Go USA! Then I went back to sleep. I think it was a reaction to the crowd noise during the tie. I had never been exposed to anything like that, and maybe I just needed to fight back or assert myself, even if it was just in a dream and too late to matter.

The explanation for this disaster seems simple. I was the wrong man for the job. And to this day, whenever anyone brings up that tie in Lyon, I just shrug, grin, and tell them “Wrong man for the job”. I don’t want to blame Gorman, or anyone else, but the one thing that was painfully clear by the end of the final against France was that Pete Sampras, a raw youth, was completely unprepared for the demands of Davis Cup play. He was the wrong man for the job.

There was, however, a personal silver lining, Tim Gullikson, waiting in the wings to take over as my coach, saw how much I struggled against the French lefties. He felt that I stood too far to my right when I was receiving serve, exposing too much of my backhand. He wanted me to stand farther to the left to send the signal that I was looking to touch off a big forehand return. It was a cagey move, because lefties just love attacking a righty’s backhand, especially in the ad court. The results were remarkable; I think I won my next thirty-two matches against left-handers after he passed on that tip.
I shudder to think how different my rivalry with Goran Ivanisevic, another lefty, might have turned out had I not changed my receiving stance.