Monte Carlo: Outlook for the Clay Season

Recap of Miami:

Following his early loss in Miami to Tobias Kamke, DelPo flew home to Tandil.  His team later confirmed that DelPo had been having family issues (one unconfirmed report says his mother had heart surgery), which had  affected DelPo’s focus at the Miami tournament.  In any case, DelPo’s media person Jorge Viale confirmed 2 weeks ago that everything is now okay.

In another statement released by Jorge Viale, DelPo confirmed he had visited Dr. Berger at the Mayo Clinic, right before playing Indian Wells (after his MSG exho against Rafa in NYC).  He received a diagnosis of a grade 1 sprain in his left wrist (the left wrist had been bothering him since Cincinnati last year and the injury resurfaced at Marseille).  After 10 days of rest for his left wrist, DelPo resumed training on clay last week.  Here he is with 20-year old Argentine player Luciano Doria:

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DelPo accepted a WC to play Monte Carlo, so he will be playing the Masters tournament, that is otherwise known as Rafa’s playground for the first time since 2009, when DelPo lost to Ljubicic in R2.

Although DelPo normally starts his clay season at the Portugal Open (née Estoril — the tournament announced a name change to “Portugal Open” this year), his WC invite from Monte Carlo means he flew on Thursday from Argentina to Monte Carlo, to begin his clay season at the Masters.  As you all know, DelPo changed his clay season schedule by opting out of all DC ties this year.  By omitting DC from his schedule, he may have decided to make up for the extra week by playing Monte Carlo.  If nothing else, it will be a chance for him to gain a few ranking points.

Looking back at DelPo’s clay season in 2012:


Last year, DelPo had a solid season on clay.  He won his 2nd Estoril title (defeating Gasquet in the final and Wawrinka in the SF), before reaching the SF at Madrid, where he narrowly lost to Berdy (in a close match he frankly should have won).  However, DelPo also picked up a knee injury in Madrid, which meant he was inconsistent at the Rome Masters, where he lost in R3 to Tsonga (in what turned out to be Tsonga’s only win over a top 10 player in all of 2012).  DelPo’s knee injury was a concern, but he reached the QF at Roland Garros (beating Berdy in R4) and he won his first set off Fed since his comeback in 2011.  In fact, DelPo would go on to win two sets over Fed, before Fed came back to win the match in 5 sets.

All in all, DelPo’s clay season in 2012 was a step in the right direction, as he made a deep run at a Masters tournament, while also providing a sterner challenge to Fed at a Slam.  However, injury was an ever-present concern throughout.  Furthermore, DelPo’s losses to Berdy at Madrid and Tsonga at Rome were somewhat of a setback, given his positive H2H against both players (he is a career 4-2 against Berdy and 5-2 against Tsonga).

Looking further back to 2011, DelPo had picked up an injury to his abdomen during his title run in Estoril, which meant he played in a compromised state at Madrid.  The left abdomen injury had resulted in DelPo giving a walkover to Rafa in their R3 match at the 2011 Madrid Masters (due to that injury, DelPo did not play Rome as well).

Given the concerns about DelPo’s left wrist this year, health will most likely continue to be a lingering problem for DelPo in 2013, especially on clay.  While players like Rafa bemoan the injuries that result from playing on HCs, there’s also a solid case for injuries that result from playing on clay.  The overall lesson is that different players pick up different injuries on different surfaces.

What’s at stake this year:

Despite the injury concerns, DelPo will relish his chances on clay.  He’s won a total of 4 titles on that surface.  One of his goals for 2013 is to continue his consistency on clay, especially against players like Berdy and Tsonga, while mounting a serious challenge against the top 4.

Berdy continues to have a 265-point lead over DelPo in the ATP rankings, but Berdy has major points to defend on clay (including SF points at Monte Carlo and finalist points at Madrid).  Even though DelPo has nothing tangible to gain by overtaking Berdy for the no. 6 position, it’d be nice to see him make a play for the ranking, given the fact that it appears to be well within his grasp.

While Rafa makes his return to his cherished clay surface at Monte Carlo, the tournament will be without Federer and Ferrer this year (Ferrer withdrew with a thigh injury he picked up in Miami).  Djokovic, who suffered an ankle injury while playing the DC QF, is also in doubt for Monte Carlo.  If Djokovic should skip Monte Carlo, DelPo would be seeded 4th at the tournament (meanwhile, Berdy plays his 2nd straight Masters as a top 4 seed).

DelPo’s decision to play Monte Carlo this year is in line with his goal to become one of the top contenders at the big tournaments.  That said, the challenge for him will be to maintain his health throughout the season.

Davis Cup Recap:

In a truly surprising upset, Argentina reached the Davis Cup SF by defeating France for the first time in six meetings.  This was by far one of the most exciting QF ties, as Berlocq defeated Simon in the 5th rubber, to the utter delight of the crowd at Parque Roca.


Given how Argentina played without DelPo, while France had Tsonga, Gasquet, Simon and top doubles team Llodra/Benneteau on their side, the French looked the heavy favorites going into the QF.  However, Gasquet had lingering ankle problems from IW/Miami and was replaced by Simon on the squad.

While Tsonga won both of his singles rubbers, Simon (who had back problems) proved to be the weak link for France.  In the end, I would say that the French doubles team lost the tie for France.  Nalbandian-Zeballos played extremely well to defeat Llodra-Benneteau in four sets.  Despite Llodra’s very impressive background as a doubles player, only 2 of the Frenchman’s 25 doubles titles have come on clay.  The slower clay surface suited the Argentines.  Nalby and Zeballos play very well together and Zeballos was particularly clutch at the big moments.  Later, it appeared Llodra was suffering from bladder problems, as he had to make repeated trips to the bathroom (eventually, he ended up using a water bottle — to the amusement of the crowd).  Team Argentina celebrated like they’d already won after the doubles tie.

On Sunday, Berlocq played the match of his career when he defeated Simon in four sets.  Simon had been suffering from back problems in his first singles rubber against Pico, but he was fit to play on Sunday.  Berlocq faced the big task of winning the deciding rubber for Argentina.  The no. 71-ranked Argentine defeated no. 13-ranked Simon in a big upset.  The crowd went crazy.  The Incredible Hulk Charly Berlocq ripped his shirt off.  Zeballos rightfully ran toward Charly like a magnetic force was propelling him:

For those who malign Berlocq for ripping his shirt off,

1) How about you lighten up?  This is easily the biggest win of Bercloq’s career on one of the grandest stages of tennis (Davis Cup).  We’re talking once-in-a-lifetime victory here.  I’m sorry Berlocq is not a top 10 player for whom defeats over Simon is an everyday occurrence.  As it is, Berlocq is a journeyman who is currently playing the best tennis of his career and making a name for his country.  

2) Even with their nightmare draw, Berlocq has somehow dragged Argentina to the DC SF.  This is a small miracle in itself.  I was not enthusiastic about ARG’s chances against France and I’m even less enthusiastic about their chances against the Czechs (on an indoor HC), but Berlocq’s triumph was nevertheless heartwarming and the team’s reaction to the win even more so.

I was also struck by how happy Nalby appeared after the win.  Nalby’s not exactly a player who has a sunny disposition, but he just looked so plainly happy after that win.  He may be old, battered and far past his prime, but his desire to win Davis Cup is still very much in plain sight.  For all the discord he’s caused for Team Argentina in the past, it was still a strangely sweet sight to witness:


In a radio interview after ARG’s victory over France, ARG’s DC sub-captain Mariano Zabaleta said that Nalby would have retired for good if Argentina lost France in the QF.  Zabaleta says that Nalby’s goal is now to train in order to play the doubles tie and a singles tie against the Czech Republic (away), on what is likely to be an indoor HC surface.


About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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