The tennis season is a relentless circuit of airports, hotels and courtesy cars for the world’s best. Year after year they play the same arenas and the same opponents; often the only thing that feels any different is the final score.
There are highlights along the way of course Ã¢â‚¬â€ the Grand Slams, great Davis Cup ties Ã¢â‚¬â€ and there are those tournaments where certain players feel right at home and consistently produce their best tennis.
Roger Federer has perfected the art of peaking at the Grand Slams, but there are a couple of other stops on tour which he likes to save his best tennis for too. His record on the grass of Halle is outstanding, but the one place he really likes to put on a show is Basel.
It’s hardly surprising; after all, it’s where he was born and grew up, first realising that he had a special talent for the game. It’s also where he chose to marry Mirka in a private ceremony away from the glare of the paparazzi. He is hero worshipped in Basel, but in a typically Swiss way; they let him get on with his life by admiring him from afar.
Just how much the tournament means to him was brought into sharp focus as far back as 2001, when a net-rushing Tim Henman put paid to his hopes in the final. The famous Federer waterworks were in full flow that day, as the disappointment he felt in losing in front of his home faithful came flooding out.
He has since enjoyed great success there, winning three straight titles between 2006 and 2008, before once again coming unstuck in the final last year to Novak Djokovic. Should they meet again in the final this year, Federer would be hungry for revenge.
Rafael Nadal, until last year the undisputed king of clay, has a similar affinity with the Monte Carlo Masters. He has won five straight titles on the clay of the glamorous principality, surpassing his efforts at the French. It’s the first stop on his clay court calendar, and there’s no doubt the Nadal is relieved to be off the hard courts and on his beloved dirt. At that point of the season, Nadal is still generally pretty fresh, which isn’t always true towards the end of the clay court swing when he has been playing week in week out, racking up titles.
Unlike other clay events like Hamburg, the conditions are quick which rewards his vicious topspin forehand, and the picturesque setting has parallels with his home in Mallorca. This year, all eyes will be on Nadal in Monte Carlo once more, as people try and assess whether his widely reported demise translates to the clay courts. That should mean his price is somewhat longer, in which case he should certainly be backed.
Wimbledon’s nearly man Andy Roddick has proved himself a grass court player of high calibre year after year, although unfortunately for him his career has coincided with Federer’s- meaning he has had to make do with three runners-up titles at Wimbledon. However, at Queens Club, Roddick can take solace in the fact the Federer isn’t in the field.
The crowds in Barons Court love Roddick and his cheeky charm, and his record there is pretty special too. He has won the title on four occasions, and would surely have reached the final last year had he not twisted his ankle by stepping on the ball during his semi-final with James Blake. That may have been a blessing in disguise as it took the pressure off going into Wimbledon, but this year he is likely to tread more carefully.
He may never win the coveted Wimbledon crown, but Roddick will at least want to break the record for the number of Queen’s titles won, thus confirming himself as a great grasscourt player. Andy Murray will put up stiff opposition of course, but Roddick proved he knows how to take care of the Scot on grass in last year’s Wimbledon semi-finals.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge