So what did we learn about our favourite boys whilst they played on the red stuff in Monte Carlo?
Here are a few of my thoughts about what could be in store for the rest of the clay season if this tournament is anything to go by:
Rafael Nadal Still the Undisputed King of Clay
But we knew that already, right?
Unfortunately for his opponents, Rafa’s success on the other tennis surfaces has not diminished any of his powers on clay. By winning in Monte Carlo, Rafa has (once again) made history, as he is the only man to have won an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament five times in a row.
However, there were a few small visible rays of hope for the other players who will have to face him on a clay court.
Firstly, Andy Murray (not known for his prowess on clay) took Rafa to a tiebreaker in the second set of their semifinal match, showing slight susceptability on the part of the Spaniard.
Secondly, Novak Djokovic managed to take a set (a whole set!) off Rafa in the final. Obviously, after this occurred, Rafa must have been thinking, "How dare he?" as he responded by thrashing Djokovic 6-1 in the deciding set.
Still, these two performances show that Rafa can be beaten on the red dirt. After all, if Nole could get one set, then why not two (or even three at the French)? Surely it is possible?!
Of course, to win against Rafa, a player would have to play as though their life depended on it. Guess that goes without saying.
There’s not really much else to say here. Unless there is a huge upset, Rafa will remain the man to beat (or at least to try and take a set off) in the clay season.
Novak Djokovic Has Found His Form
And is still wearing the blue shirt-blue shoes combination. Note that his shade of blue has been termed “Prussian” by our community leader.
Yes, the form which has been missing of late seems to have finally made its way back to the Djoker. In my opinion, he was definitely the second-best player of the tournament, playing solidly throughout, and fully deserved his place in the final.
He also showed that playing against Rafa on clay can still result in a competitive match.
Having now made the finals of two tournaments in a row, perhaps he is once again becoming a serious contender for any title?
And perhaps there is some magic in those blue shoes that he is not telling us about. I mean, seriously, why would he be sporting them otherwise?
Andy Murray Remains a Top Player
That holds true even on clay.
Andy Murray really made his big breakthrough last year after getting to the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Do you remember his crazy fourth-round match against Richard Gasquet? I’m sure all you Brits out there do!
The last time Andy played on clay was at the French Open. Since then, he has come on by leaps and bounds, powering his way up to become a member of the mighty “Top Four.”
Therefore, no one (himself included) was sure how he would take to the clay. He has never produced very good results on this surface; he had never even gotten to a quarterfinal on clay before this tournament.
But Andy showed that he is not just a one-trick pony and that he is now a true contender on any surface by making his way to the semis.
He put up a particularly fantastic fight again Fabio Fognini in the third round, coming back from 0-5 down in the first set to go on and take the match in straight sets. And of course, he took Rafa to a tiebreaker in their semifinal match.
Murray is now a serious threat on any surface.
Stanislas Wawrinka Is Officially the New Kid in Town
Wawrinka is ready to play with the big boys.
Now, I’m not going to blow my own trumpet or anything like that, but...I told you so!
I was pleased to see Stan doing so well in Monte Carlo. Before this tournament got underway, I wrote an article about him, noting that he is a player who often goes unnoticed even though he has produced some very good results this year.
Stan certainly proved that he has the goods when he beat Roger Federer in straight sets in the third round of the tournament. He went on to reach the semis and only lost to an in-form Novak Djokovic.
Wawrinka has consistently been playing some top-class tennis against the best of the bunch (taking Novak to two tiebreakers in Indian Wells and Rafa to two tiebreakers in Miami). Clay is his favourite surface, so he is definitely one to look out for this season.
Nickolay Davydenko Can Finally Be Proclaimed Injury-Free
Yes, the Russian is back!
He has not played competitively since Rotterdam in February, as a pesky heel injury has sidelined him. Therefore, it was not easy to predict how he would play in Monte Carlo.
But he did not give a bad performance by any means. He made it to the quarterfinals, where he eventually lost out to Murray. He even beat David Nalbandian on his way.
Davydenko is a good clay-courter, having reached the semis of the French Open twice, so it should be interesting to see how this season turns out for him. Fingers crossed that he remains healthy.
Gilles Simon and the rest of the French clan made an early exit, but I’m not sure what to make of this! Simon and Marc Gicquel were the only French players who managed to make it past the first round.
However, both were swiftly knocked out in the second by Andreas Beck and David Ferrer, respectively.
Following his amazing run in Oz this year, Fernando Verdasco has been consistently making it to the quarterfinals of tournaments. However, the real question now is whether he can power through to the next couple of rounds and become a true contender for a title.
Juan Martin del Potro showed that tennis is a funny old sport. One day you are on top of the world and the next you are making a second-round exit. Guess that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
Del Potro is still a bit inconsistent when it comes to producing results. This is why I think he is not yet rated alongside the likes of Murray and Djokovic.
However, he is still young and I hope he can go much deeper into the upcoming tournaments and show the world why he is a member of the top 10. After all, when he turns it on, he is a top-notch player!
Roger, Roger, Roger!
Yes, I’m going to refer to my hero, but I’m not going to make a big deal of it. There have been many articles documenting Federer’s third-round exit in Monte Carlo.
After having got a last minute wild-card entry into the tournament and then leaving so soon, many of us were left thinking that perhaps he should have just gone on his honeymoon after all.
However, there is still hope! As Long John alluded to in one of his articles, perhaps Roger was just trying out some new tactics when he lost to Stan. I sincerely hope this is the case.
I fear that I might anger the great man, but I’m going to say it anyway…
Time to get a coach, perhaps?
And finally, Andy Roddick showed that he still isn't a big fan of the red dirt and decided to get married instead! Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. A-Rod!