Will clay season fall flat?

For many years, tennis fans could rely on Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Serena Williams or Simona Halep to bring star power to clay events from Madrid to Rome and Paris.

But this year, that’s not happening. 

Nadal, citing a hip injury, won’t even play in Spain, though his uncle expects him to play in Paris. Federer and Serena have retired. Murray’s in a slump. Halep is disputing her banishment due to alleged doping. Djokovic, meanwhile, seems to be saving his best for Roland Garros.

Iga Swatiek is almost too good, and lacks a consistent rival on clay. Despite a plethora of talented young players, the French Open in particular has recently seen empty stadiums for women’s matches, even semi-finals. 

All of this means a heavy burden on the shoulders of Carlos Alcaraz. But he’s also been missing tournaments due to injuries. 

This gives Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex Zverev, Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz and others a golden opportunity on a surface that they like. If Nadal and Djokovic can’t return to their top form, Roland Garros is there for the taking.

—words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved