Five things we learnt from Rome
Originally published on 16/05/16 00:00
Murray IS one of the favourites for the French Open
The facts don’t lie. Victories over Nadal and Djokovic on what is supposedly his weakest surface were no flukes, though the Serb was undoubtedly hampered by a late finish against Nishikori and a slight foot injury. The stats don’t lie either, and since March of last year Murray has as many titles on clay as Djokovic and one more than Spaniard Nadal. A second seeding at Roland Garros will also see the British No 1 avoid the only man above him in the rankings until the final, meaning a kind draw in Paris could set the Rome champion up nicely for a third career major.
The ATP might want to consider the scheduling for Rome in future
Yes, the setting is pretty, and at this time of year who doesn’t want to watch some tennis as the sun sets over the colloseum-esque centre court? But the simple fact is, rain delay or no rain delay, the second men’s semi-final started too late in the day. Yes, the weather played its part, but why wait until 3pm in the afternoon to start proceedings at all, especially when the event was played in conjunction with the WTA. Murray is himself no stranger to a late finish, and Djokovic will make no excuses, but Sunday’s fans were robbed of seeing a proper contest befitting of the world’s best two players.
Nadal is back – but the bar has been raised
The undisputed ‘King of Clay’ has shown far more of the form that took him to his throne this year, as shown by his title in Monte Carlo after overcoming a set deficit to Murray in the semis. But while Nadal has reached a level capable of winning the biggest clay court tournaments once more, he’s found winning week-in, week-out requires a new level. At this stage in his career, perhaps it’s something he just doesn’t have anymore. You wouldn’t want to be on his side of the draw in Paris, though.
Federer should probably skip the French Open
It certainly wouldn’t be in Federer’s nature to miss a tournament when fit enough, in particular when it would end his incredible record of 65 consecutive Grand Slam events. But after an injury-hit clay court swing nobody would blame the Swiss world No.3 if he decided to miss Roland Garros to focus on Wimbledon, arguably his best chance of claiming major number 18. Federer has mastered his career superbly to this point, and it might be time to take one of the most dramatic, yet ultimately rewarding steps.
The new generation aren’t ready just yet
Dominic Thiem beat Federer, Nick Kyrgios took Nadal to three sets and Kei Nishikori pushed Djokovic all the way, but ultimately the championship match was still contested between the top two players in the world. With Nadal and Federer looking more and more vulnerable the door to the top four becomes more ajar with each passing week, but the mental strength of both Murray and Djokovic means that for the moment at least, the entrance to the biggest titles remains well and truly blocked.