“The clay-court season is upon us, but does it really matter, nobody changes their game anyway.” Well, that’s Jimmy Connors’ opinion. But here are a few things to look forward to now that the courts have turned red (and, er, blue).
The controversy over the new blue clay courts at Madrid’s Caja Magica.
How much does the colour of a court really matter? We shall discover this spring. Yes, it’s a stunt, but it’s a very good one, even better than when this tournament hired off-duty catwalk models as ball-girls. The more the traditionalists in the locker-rooms and in the stadium complain about the clay turning blue in Madrid, the more attention this event will receive. The idea behind the blue is that it will be easier for the armchair viewer to pick out the ball on his screen; the controversy surrounding the change should ensure that the same casual fan stops flicking channels when he finds the tennis.
Don’t sneer at stunts. Tennis needs stunts, needs gimmicks, needs to think about how it is selling itself to the promiscuous consumer (is there a better marketing ploy in tennis than Wimbledon’s predominantly-white clothing rule?).
To see whether Novak Djokovic can achieve the non-calendar-year grand slam
Djokovic has never played in a French Open final before; if he does so this spring, and wins the match, he will become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slams simultaneously.
The return of Andrea Petkovic
The German, out through injury since January, has been much-missed, not least by those who like some silly dancing and indie sensibilities with their tennis.
Can Serena Williams’s form cross the Atlantic?
Will Serena, who destroyed the field in Charleston, have the same impact when she crosses over to Europe?
Can Agnieszka Radwanska win a first grand slam at the French Open?
Well, why not?
What effect will Ivan Lendl have on Andy Murray’s clay-court game?
Lendl, he who loves dirty jokes and clean hitting, has Murray believing that he can win the French Open. It’s an intriguing subject. The received wisdom has long been that Murray’s breakthrough major could only come at the other three slams, that the French Open was blocked off. But remember last year. Murray had his best season on the clay, and reached a first semi-final in Paris where he held his own with Rafael Nadal.
The relaunch of Rafael Nadal
There is no better place for Nadal to be than on the Cote d’Azur – next week he will be attempting to win an eighth consecutive title at the Monte Carlo Country Club. Last season Nadal did not dominate the clay like he has in the past, as Djokovic beat him in the finals of Madrid and Rome, but he still won in Monte Carlo and Roland Garros. Are we going to go back to the old days, with Rafa stomping his red-stained (and blue-stained) trainers all over the opposition?