The European clay returns and so does The Don!

The clay court season may now be fully underway but there was an air of deja vu about the winner’s enclosure in Monte Carlo! A top priced 4/7 Nadal, who is as short as 4/9 in places for the French Open and it is difficult to see past him winning his 11th Roland Garros title. Barring the classic ‘injury’ remarks this looks a racing certainty again unless someone puts in a worldy performance over five sets. The Davis Cup got his eye in and he battered everyone in sight in Monte Carlo. I read one report that says he was awful in disposing of Grigor Dimitrov in the semi’s, I suppose he did have the audacity to drop his level and a whole five games in the process! Steady now Rafa! In the previous round, he spanked the second favourite for the French in Dominic Thiem 6/0 6/2, not too shabby that. Thiem had denied the Rafa v Djokovic quarter-final having come from a set down against the Serb. We know Thiem is a classy operator on the red stuff but there is a fair gap between himself and Nadal right now and you don’t see that changing anytime soon. The Spaniard had far too much for Kei Nishikori in the final, though this was a fine week for Nishikori.

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Nishikori will be relieved to get his career back on track following injury and taking out second seed Marin Cilic and third seed Sascha Zverev in the quarters and the last four will do his confidence the world of good. He understandably ran out of steam in the final having had threes setters against Berdych, Seppi, Cilic and Sascha.

Djokovic got a couple of wins under his belt against Lajovic and Coric but the interesting news was seeing him back with his old coach Marian Vajda. The pair have grown up for years together and know each other like brothers so this could be the right appointment for Nole. It has only been mentioned as being definite through the clay swing.

Lucas Pouille posted a lacklustre effort against Mischa Zverev in his opener and this was a disappointing effort from the Frenchman, who was fancied to go well here. On his day I am a pretty big fan but the consistency is still lacking.

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Jay Clarke made the quarters of the challenger event in Sarasota, beating Mackenzie Mcdonald and Akira Santillan before losing to Facundo Bagnis. Decent effort.

The Czech Republic will host the USA in the final of the 2018 Fed Cup. The Czech’s did a tidy little number on Germany over in Stuttgart, ousting them 4-1. Kvitova and Pliskova liking the fast indoor clay, both beating Angie Kerber in straight sets, this was after Kvitova had beaten Julia Goerges in the opening rubber. On both occasions, Kvitova was all over her opponent’s second serve. The Americans, also on an indoor clay court defeated the French in Aix-en-Provence. Sloane Stephens won both of her rubbers against Pauline Parmentier and Kristina Mladenovic (the latter by a 6/2 6/0 scoreline). Madison Keys was brought in for the fourth rubber (replacing Vandeweghe) where she saw off Parmentier to clinch the tie. There was heartache for Great Britain in the World Group II playoffs. Jo Konta showed decent form in beating both Kurumi Nara and then, very impressively Naomi Osaka in Japan, but it wasn’t quite enough as Heather Watson lost both reverse singles. The pair teamed up and lost the deciding rubber in the doubles to Miyu Kato and Makoto Ninomiya.

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Finally, Saisai Zheng won the 125k Series event in Zhengzhou, she never looked back after beating Shuai Peng in her opener, she beat Yafan Wang in the final. Top seed Shuai Zhang withdrew before the start of the event in a field that also included Luksika Kumkhum, Yingying Duan and Yanina Wickmayer.

Andy Del Potro

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