Road to the French Open

It has been a few years since the clay season looked open, since Nadal seemingly might be vulnerable. Personally I think Nadal and Federer would love to face up to each other in another French Open final, an irresistible challenge for both men. For Roger it is the last major challenge remaining in tennis that is not about breaking records. For Rafa it is about re-establishing his superiority on clay and renewing his challenge for number one. For the tennis fan it would be major box office.

The field who can stop them has thinned with Del Potro and Davydenko injured, so the main contenders will be Soderling, Djokovic, Murray and hopefully Berdych and Tsonga (if they can find a bit more mental consistency). One question will be answered in Monte Carlo. Is Nadal vulnerable? If he steams through the field and claims the title then apart from the Roger form factor which we will find out in Rome and Madrid, it could be business as usual.

History has shown that it is impossible to win the French without building prior form so it is essential for the Murray, Djokovic, Soderling etc to build momentum for their clay season not to fade. Here is my left field pick to do some damage this year! Andy Roddick. Larry Stefanki will address the "can't play on clay with the best" mentality and with his form and confidence I expect him to have his best clay court season and surprise many people.

The Women

Fascinating and open! Justine Henin previous queen of clay is back as is Clijster's, the bridesmaid. Will this rivalry continue in Paris or will they both be vulnerable? I think it will be their show as with the exception of Wozniacki and Jankovic at present who has form none of the other big guns look likely to threaten on clay. Kuznetsova and Safina (if healthy) are always dangerous if on form so their build up will be important. My instinct says a new clay court star will emerge if Henin and Clijsters do not dominate. It is set up for a surprise winner if the Belgiums go early.

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