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With Miami wrapping up over the weekend, the clay court swing is upon us, which always brings interesting and unexpected results across the board.

So what can we expect on the WTA/ATP tour?

Well, for a start, South Americans historically perform well on clay, probably due to their disciplined, gruelling game styles. 

On the flip side, Americans and Australians don’t fare as well (unsurprisingly), given our preference for faster surfaces.

Europeans, meanwhile, just generally play well on all surfaces, with some notable exceptions (*cough Medvedev cough*).

And then there’s Rafa, whose utter domination on the red stuff has almost made the clay court swing a boring spectacle. After an injury-filled season sidelined him for most of 2023, will this be the final goodbye to the King of Clay this year?

On the women’s side, while Iga Świątek has solidified herself as the Queen of Clay over the last few years, there have been notable challengers in the form of Arnya Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.

So who looks good this year?

Normally good form is a reliable indicator but not on clay. 

After his utterly dominant Miami victory, new world number 2, Jannik Sinner admitted that he “usually struggles” on clay but claims he is feeling “fitter and stronger” this year to continue his hot run of form.

We mentioned Daniil Medvedev is notoriously dismissive of the clay but usually comes in raging hot off the early hard court season. The Russian number 1 did, however, win the Italian Open last year, which proves he is capable on the dirt.

Conversely, players with bad form coming into the clay court swing are not to be underestimated either.

Case in point Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune, who both performed strongly on clay despite relatively mediocre 2023 seasons. Don’t be surprised if they both have strong runs on clay this year (although it’s fair to say they are both still well out of form).

Meanwhile, Carlos Alcaraz has already proven himself on all surfaces and had arguably the best clay court season on tour, winning in Barcelona and Madrid while making the semis at Roland Garros. After debilitating cramps took him out of what was shaping up to be an intriguing semi-final battle with Djokovic, the Spanish number 1 will surely be better equipped to manage his French Open campaign. 

Of the other top male contenders, Casper Ruud has a great clay court pedigree but has never won higher than ATP 250 level. Ruud did, however, make the last two French Open finals, only to lose to two of the greatest players the game has ever seen, so the Norwegian is definitely in the argument.

And then of course there’s Rafa and Novak, who are always clay court contenders, no matter what form they’re in.

As for the women, Świątek is still the one to beat, while Sabalenka and Rybakina are her biggest contenders. Sabalenka’s mental state will, however, be the biggest question mark after the sudden and shocking death of her boyfriend, Konstantin Koltsov in Miami last week.

Of the other potential contenders on the WTA tour, Ons Jabeur is a previous winner at Madrid, Coco Gauf had a semi-final run at Roland Garros last year and 2017 French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko is always dangerous on clay when she is motivated.

With the first minor WTA/ATP clay court tournaments kicking off this week, it’s sure to be an intriguing watch, featuring many upsets, shock results and breakthrough victories.


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