On Clay

May 4, 2006

by Aparajith Ramnath

The spacing of the tennis Grand Slams is a bit odd. After the Australian Open in January, the players scurry around the professional tour for around four months. And then, out of the blue, the next two Slams pop up: the French in May-June, and Wimbledon in June-July. One of the consequences is that the ‘clay court season’ as it were is longer than its grass court equivalent. Players usually have a quick warm up for Wimbledon by playing one of a few tournaments like the Stella Artois Championships (popularly referred to as Queen’s Club after the venue) in London, and the Gerry Weber Open held at Halle in Germany; aspiring French Open champs have a longer list of tournaments to choose from, spread out over a longer time. With the French Open a few weeks away (slated for May 28 this year), we profile briefly some of the clay court tournaments leading up to it.

The Monte Carlo Masters (formerly the Monte Carlo Open) is a men’s tournament held, as should be obvious from the name, in Monte Carlo, the wealthiest of the four quarters of the Principality of Monaco. The tournament began in 1897 (the year the electron was discovered). Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in four sets in the finals in April this year en route to an astounding series of successive wins on clay, the number of which now stands at 47.

The Rome Masters (formerly called the Italian Open, and now referred to as the Telecom Italia Masters) has been held in Rome since 1935 (though it was not held between 1936 and 1949), but the Italian championships trace their origins to Milan in 1930. No surprises, the defending champion (Men’s) is Nadal again; the Women’s defending champ is Amelie Mauresmo.

The Hamburg Masters (formerly the German Open) is a men’s tournament held in May in Hamburg, Germany, one of Europe’s largest port-cities and a major centre for trade. Roger Federer has won the tournament the last two years, beating Richard Gasquet in the finals in 2005 and Guillermo Coria in 2004.

The Estoril Open is a men’s (since 1990) and women’s (since 1998) tournament held in Estoril, Portugal. Last year Gaston Gaudio won the men’s event and Lucie Safarova the women’s. Estoril is a resort town close to Lisbon. In this year’s tournament, in progress at the time of writing, Nikolay Davydenko has defeated Marat Safin to reach the quarterfinals.

Other clay court tournaments include the events at Barcelona, Casablanca and Munich.  

Reference: Wikipedia and the Internet

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