Yes, it's that time of year again, which used to be so fun, but is not the case anymore for a multitude of reasons, which will be explained later or maybe explanation isn't the right word. I wasn't sure whether to do a preview of Monte Carlo or not, mainly because we already know the winner of the event, so this will mean that other possibilities have to be found before the ending which will be more predictable than a Hollywood movie.
The clay season only exists in name, because the utter and total domination by Nadal has rendered it almost useless. He is so far ahead of everyone else at the moment, it's not funny. Yes, it has helped that any potential competition for him Kuerten, Ferrero, Coria, Gaudio have all disappeared, when you have Ferrero who won his first tournament since 2003 in Casachallenger last week, it doesn't say much. Then you have guys Andreev who has the game, but not the execution, Almagro seems to have stagnated and worships Nadal, no chance there. Ferrer is brave, but not at his top level. Del Potro just a hardcourter who can play on clay, but when it gets tough, he will go missing. In fact Berdych just has much chance as the others and that isn't saying so much. Should they just not turn up to the event, well of course not, but it doesn't look good.
Decline will set in, but the question is when. Considering that art of claycourt tennis isn't really around anymore, due to the homogenisation of surface speeds, that players are able to play their hardcourt games on clay for the most part. To see that Federer has been the second best player for years on clay highlights how the game has changed on clay and not for the better either. Yes, without a doubt for an attacking player he is good on the surface this is clear enough, but his backhand just gets worked over and over by Nadal and it breaks like an egg when you make an omelette, the previous generation of guys hit heavy off both sides and Federer wouldn't be getting anything under shoulder high from guys like Bruguera, Corretja. The game has changed and has been taken advantage of, but numbers can only reveal so much.
Onto Federer, it was very poor form for him to take a WC here. He should just have committed to the event, then again he must have got some good money and also thinking about the possibility of ranking points as well, that he would lose. It's time for him to focus on winning Slams, if he gets the number 1 ranking back great, if not, then no less. play well and win then the ranking looks after itself. Lucky, I am not the Tournament Director, he'd have got a wildcard into the qualies only.
Now the event itself. The King will be first on court and the Monegasque ladies, might forget about walking their poodles and hanging out with the George Hamilton types with the huge suntan and the grey hair. Nico Lapentti qualified and always good to see the Ecuadorian still around the tour and he plays sexy Stepanek, there will be many slices, dropshots and court craft on show there. Seppi will need to be on his best game against Melzer, both aren't in great form, but the South Tyrolean legend needs some wins and if he does I get to see him play Federer on TV, though he must be sick of seeing him on the other side of the net, would love it if he won, but dreams are free.
As for the hopes of this event, at least some interesting early round matches, because last years clay season, especially with the events that Nadal played were more painful than root canal surgery without anaesthetic.