ATP Edition: Clay-Court Power Rankings

The French Open will soon be upon us! By May 28, all opportunities to properly prepare for the slipperiest Grand Slam will have come to an end. Players have been battling it out week after week for titles, money, and confidence as Roland Garros approaches. I have created the Clay Court Power Rankings to show who I believe are the best contenders for the French Open title.

The Contenders:

5. Pablo Cuevas

Pablo_Cuevas_(27424770685)

Ranking: 23

YTD Record: 16-10 (62%)

Claycourt Record: 12-4 (75%)

Although little is known about Pablo Cuevas outside the tennis world, he has certainly made headlines this year. The 30-year-old journeyman has enjoyed a great deal of success on clay. Cuevas began his clay-court record by winning the Brasil Open earlier in February. Later in April, he upset 2015 French Open champ Stanislas Wawrinka to reach the quarterfinals of Monte Carlo where he captured the doubles title there as well. Last week he made it to the semifinals of the Madrid Open where he beat American sensation Jack Sock and talented German Alexander Zverev. Cuevas’ game is perfectly tailored for the nitty gritty clay so I expect him to cause the top players trouble at Roland Garros.

Prediction: Quarterfinals

4. Lucas Pouille

Pouille_US16_(35)_(29569444720)

Ranking: 17

YTD Record: 17-9 (65%)

Claycourt Record: 9-3 (75%)

The rising Frenchman has compiled an impressive 9-2 record on clay this season. Pouille reached the semifinals of Monte Carlo by beating Pablo Cuevas and took that momentum with him to win the Hungarian Open the following week. Before setting foot on the clay courts, Pouille struggled with posting consistent results week in and week out. His record on all other surfaces played this year is an abysmal 8-7 so clay certainly seems to be his savior. He made headlines last year by reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Pouille’s best result at the French Open by reaching the second round so look for him to go a lot further this year.

Prediction: Quarterfinals

3. Dominic Thiem (AUT)

Dominic_Thiem_(14608333766)

Ranking: 7

YTD Record: 29-12 (71%)

Claycourt Record: 17-4 (81%)

Why: The 23-year-old Austrian has had a phenomenal clay-court season by winning the Rio Open and then reaching the finals in both Barcelona and Madrid where he fell to Nadal each time. En route to his finals appearance in Barcelona Thiem scored a major upset world #1 Andy Murray, prevailing in three sets. This past week in Rome, he avenged his 2 consecutive losses to Nadal by defeating him 6-4, 6-3 handing the Spaniard his first defeat on clay this year. Thiem has already compiled over $1 million in prize money which shows that he has consistently been making it to the latter stages of tournaments. Look for him to reach at least the semifinals of the French Open, although I am sure he expects much more.

Prediction: Finals

2. Alexander Zverev (GER)

Alexander_Zverev_(19378326471)

ATP Ranking: 10

YTD Record: 27-9 (75%)

Claycourt Record: 16-3 (84%)

Best Results: won in Rome & Munich, QF in Madrid

Why: Alexander Zverev has performed extremely well on the clay this year. The German dropped only one set en route to the title in Munich and has been very solid since then. After a quarterfinals loss to Pablo Cuevas in Madrid, Zverev headed to Rome for the last chance to improve his ranking before the French Open. He survived a tight three setter against Kevin Anderson (RSA) and then dismissed Viktor Troicki (SRB) and Fabio Fognini (ITA) before setting up a clash against world #6 Milos Raonic (CAN). After defeating Raonic in straight sets, Zverev knocked out John Isner (USA) in the semis to set up a finals clash with last year’s Roland Garros champ Novak Djokovic (SRB). To everyone’s surprise, Zverev dismissed Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 to win his first Masters title which propelled him into the top 10 rankings for the first time in his blossoming career.

Prediction: Semifinals

1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Rafael_Nadal_(19047517620)

ATP Ranking: 4

YTD Record: 34-5 (86%)

Claycourt Record: 17-1 (94%)

Why: Come on, do I really need to explain? The 9-time French Open champ has gone on a 17 match winning streak since stepping on clay. Much like the previous years, Nadal bagged the three biggest clay court titles: Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid. He dropped only 2 sets out of the 32 played across all three tournaments. Rafa breezed through his first two matches in Rome before being beaten by Dominic Thiem in straight sets. Despite the loss, expect Rafa to be in fine form in Paris. Being anything less than the champion will only be seen as a failure to him.

Prediction: Champion

Dark Horses:

Borna Coric (CRO)

Coric_RG15_(11)_(19120392310)

ATP Ranking:41

YTD Record: 13-12 (52%)

Claycourt Record: 9-5 (64%)

Best Result: won Marrakech, QF in Madrid beat Murray

 

Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)

Albert_Ramos_-_Masters_de_Madrid_2015_-_01

ATP Ranking: 23

YTD Record: 21-15 (58%)

Claycourt Record: 18-10 (64%)

Best Result: finalist in MC beat Murray, QF in Barcelona,

 

Hyeon Chung (KOR)

Hyeon_Chung_1,_2015_Wimbledon_Championships_-_Diliff

ATP Ranking: 67

YTD Record: 10-6 (63%)

Claycourt Record: 9-3 (75%)

Best Result:  QF in Barcelona beat Zverev as Qualifier, SF in Munich

 

Marin Cilic (CRO)

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ATP Ranking: 8

YTD Record: 13-10 (57%)

Claycourt Record: 8-3 (73%)

Best Results: won in Istanbul beat Milos Raonic, QF in MC beat Berdych

 

David Goffin (BEL)

Goffin_RG15_(15)_(18687299643)

ATP Ranking: 12

YTD Record: 29-11 (73%)

Claycourt Record: 10-4 (71%)

Best Results: SF in Monte Carlo (def. Djokovic & Thiem), QF in Madrid

All in all despite tennis’ ebbs and flows, there will always be at least a couple of players to depend on. For this year’s road to Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and David Goffin have proven themselves to be the players to beat at this years tournament. They have had the best results on clay out of all the ATP players this year so seeing their names at the latter stages of the French Open would only be fitting.

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