Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2019 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Rafael Nadal is better at winning clay matches than you are at just about anything in life.
We don’t know each other, at least not personally—though if you’re here or have been here to read me, thank you and you da real mvp—but I feel fairly confident saying this about you. And you too. And myself, for what it’s worth.
We may go on and achieve great things in our short time on this Earth, but none of it is likely to top the heights the Spaniard has reached out on his beloved clay courts.
Consider that Nadal, a 32-year-old who turned pro all the way back in 2001 but who reached our collective consciousness more or less in 2004 or definitely in 2005, has both the best career win-loss record on clay as well as the greatest winning percentage of all time—and for both it’s not really close.
And yet? And yet, even machines seemingly built for the mundane tasks they perform sometimes stumble. The deed came in the Monte-Carlo semifinal against a Fabio Fognini, who was playing out of his mind yes, but who was still the same Fabio Fognini who hadn’t beaten Nadal since the 2015 US Open. Nadal still lost 6-4 and 6-2.
Maybe the lesson here is that if a Nadal can stumble at a place where he’s been damn near perfect for 15 years, then there is still hope for the rest of us.
That all said, after the beautiful sightseeing of the Monte-Carlo clay comes the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, also played on red clay. The event is another one of those “kind of a big deal” tourneys, with quite a handful of the very best players on WTA ready to compete this coming week. The Stuttgart event has been held one way or another in Germany since 1978 and doubles as the oldest women’s indoor tournament, per Wikipedia.
It’s also been voted the players’ favourite event on tour nine different times since 2007; does that have something to do with the prize the champion wins, i.e. prize money and a Porsche sports car? Who knows.
18 WTA Tour events in 2019. 18 different winners
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) April 14, 2019
Where will the Russian roulette wheel of WTA champions stop this week? Let’s see if we can find out how this main draw might unfold this week.
When we mention above that this Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is a “kind of a big deal” tournament, we mean that out of a mere 32-person draw a whopping six of them are among the 10 best in the world.
In the top section, we’ll look at whether the 2019 relative season from hell will continue for Naomi Osaka? She might have won the Australian Open to start the year but since then it’s been mostly up and down. Then again, she did win the first Grand Slam of the year; this season shouldn’t feel disappointing. We feel like this “two steps forward, one step backward” might last another week, with the No. 1 player in the world grabbing a couple of wins before bowing down.
Defending champion Karolina Pliskova lords over the second quarter, but we’ll have our sights set on the dynamite first-round match between Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza.
Lower in the draw, Petra Kvitova should have little to no problem emerging from her section: she’ll either battle a handful of qualifiers or wild card entries on her way to the quarterfinals. She’s played about as well as any of her colleagues so far this season, so not even a semifinal against a Kiki Bertens on top of her game should faze the native of Czech Republic.
Quarterfinals: Naomi Osaka over Elise Mertens; Karolina Pliskova over Anett Kontaveit; Petra Kvitova over Jelena Ostapenko; Kiki Bertens over Simona Halep
Semifinals: Karolina Pliskova over Naomi Osaka; Petra Kvitova over Kiki Bertens
Final: Karolina Pliskova over Petra Kvitova
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twiter @RealCBG