As everyone predicted heading into the 2010 clay-court season, it was to be the Year of the Majorcan. So far, it has been almost exclusively Nadal's reign.
Bowing out of Barcelona, Nadal’s crown did not move far from its anointed perch. Fellow countryman Fernando Verdasco wears it in Nadal’s place.
So far Nadal has captured titles in Monte Carlo and Rome, equalling Andre Agassi’s total of 17 Masters shields. Roger Federer is one step behind with 16. But there is still time for both to add to their totals. We suspect the dynamic duo will be able to add a few more before the final bell tolls on their respective careers.
This week's power rankings reflect the men’s prowess on the red clay, and as we all know, Nadal rises to the top, especially on the dirt.
The Top 10
1. Rafael Nadal (Last Power Ranking: 1; ATP Ranking: 3)
Last Four Tournaments: Rome [Winner]; Monte Carlo [Winner]; Miami [Semifinals]; Indian Wells [Semifinals].
Power Ranking Points: 1,457
After announcing that he would not defend his title in Barcelona, Nadal sent a signal to his peers and to the tennis world that he was dead serious about recapturing his crown on the red clay at Stade Roland Garros.
He followed up on that promise by defending his Rome championship, defeating fellow countryman David Ferrer in the final. The win gave Nadal his 17th Masters shield, tying him with Agassi and moving him one up on Federer.
Although he struggled mightily against Latvian challenger Ernests Gulbis in the semifinals, Nadal hung tough and won the match. Gulbis took a set off Nadal and had the Clay King teetering on the brink for a time.
Nadal will be back in action at Madrid, where he will hope to capture this title that Federer won last year. That singular match seemed to signal Nadal’s decline a year ago, so it is only fitting that this year, it should shout out his return to form.
2. Fernando Verdasco (Last Power Ranking: 2; ATP Ranking: 9)
Last Four Tournaments: Rome [Semifinalist]; Barcelona [Winner]; Monte Carlo [Finals]; Miami [Quarterfinals].
Power Ranking Points: 846
It made perfect sense that handsome Verdasco caved in during his semifinal match in Rome against the tireless Ferrer because Verdasco had played an exorbitant amount of tennis in the past month.
In Monte Carlo, Verdasco worked hard to make the finals, where he faced Nadal. Even though Nadal made him look like a stick figure on the court, nonetheless the man from Madrid played well before facing the Majorcan juggernaut.
Verdasco made up for his lapse in the Monte Carlo final by stealing the trophy in Barcelona while Nadal was napping, resting up his body for Rome. The competition was much tougher in Rome, and the exhaustion set in as Verdasco lost to David Ferrer in the semifinals.
Next up for Verdasco—Madrid, his hometown.
3. David Ferrer (Last Power Ranking: 4; ATP Ranking: 12)
Last Four Tournaments: Rome [Finals]; Barcelona [Semifinals]; Monte Carlo [Semifinals]; Miami [R16].
Power Ranking Points: 828
So far in 2010, Ferrer has completed quite a run on clay, especially during the past three weeks. The Rome finals against Nadal pushed him into the top three in our Power Rankings, where Ferrer definitely deserves to be.
Prior to the start of clay this season, Ferrer was suffering a decline not able to produce winners on the hard courts. The red dirt has revived his confidence and re-instilled a deep desire to win.
No one has played more than Ferrer so far in 2010. But he is taking a week off before heading into Madrid and the French Open. Ferrer still has an many opportunities to take full advantage of the red clay.
4. Ernests Gulbis (Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 35)
Last Four Tournaments: Rome [Semifinals]; Barcelona [Quarterfinals]; Monte Carlo [R32]; Indian Wells [R 64].
Power Ranking Points: 424
Gulbis’s first win at Delray Beach awakened the sleeping giant who proved his potential in Rome by dismissing Roger Federer in his first match and then by taking a set from the invincible Nadal in the semifinals.
Gulbis had Nadal on the ropes in their match with Nadal escaping with the win in the final set as he broke the Gulbis serve to win the match. The Latvian wonder left Rome with some conviction under his belt and we have to wonder just how far he will go now that he realizes he can beat the big boys.
5. Robin Soderling (Last Power Ranking: 9; ATP Ranking: 7)
Last Four Tournaments: Rome [R16]; Barcelona [Finals]; Miami [Semifinals]; Indian Wells [Semifinals].
Power Ranking Points: 363
After pulling out of Monte Carlo, Robin Soderling entered Barcelona, where he made it all the way to the finals, losing that match to eventual champion Fernando Verdasco. Even though he felt he had not played well, Soderling was pleased at the way his clay-court game came together.
In Rome he made it to the round of 16, falling to Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland. While clay isn’t Soderling's surface of preference, he has shown he has the ability to play well on it—making the finals of the French Open in 2009, after upsetting Nadal.
6. Novak Djokovic (Last Power Ranking: 5; ATP Ranking: 2)
Last Four Tournaments: Rome [Quarterfinals]; Monte Carlo [Semifinals]; Miami [R64]; Indian Wells [R16].
Power Ranking Points: 315
Djokovic announced the departure of Todd Martin from his team, admitting that revamping his serve was not working as they had hoped. The lack of consistency on his serve and on his ground stokes finds the Serbian looking hard for answers as he moves forward into 2010.
Djokovic is hoping to regain his former form shortly and begin improving as the clay court season wanes. Still, he is ranked No. 6 in our Power Rankings, doing better than most of the top 10 ranked players who have failed to make any inroads on the red dirt.
Next up for Djokovic is the Serbian Open starting Monday where he is defending champion. He should find his game there where the crowds will definitely be in his corner.
7. Andy Roddick (Last Power Ranking: 3; ATP Ranking: 8)
Last Four Tournaments: Miami [Winner]; Indian Wells [Finals]; Memphis [Quarterfinals]; San Jose [Finals]
Power Ranking Points: 306
Since his last tournament in Miami, which he won, Roddick has avoided playing on European clay, opting out of Monte Carlo and Rome for more entertaining fare. It looks as though all the missing-in-action tennis hierarchy plan to play in Madrid. We shall see.
Roddick obviously will not be wasting much effort playing on the clay this year—as he concentrates his efforts on Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 10)
Last Four Tournaments: Rome [Quarterfinals]; Barcelona [Quarterfinals]; Monte Carlo [R16]; Miami [Quarterfinals].
Power Ranking Points: 291
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has enjoyed mild success on the clay so far in 2010. All of France hopes that Tsonga will embrace the clay and find it to his liking. The French crowds still hearken back to another natural athlete who won the French in 1983—Yannick Noah.
Could this be the year that the multi-talented Tsonga finally fulfills his destiny by winning the French Open? His next chance to prove himself will come on the courts in Madrid.
9. Stanislas Wawrinka (Last Power Ranking: 10; ATP Ranking: 23)
Last Four Tournaments: Rome [Quarterfinals]; Monte Carlo [R16]; Casablanca [Winner]; Miami [R32].
Power Ranking Points: 282
Wawrinka fared much better than his countryman Federer in Rome. He made it to the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Nadal. He was playing excellent tennis until that encounter.
Wawrinka will be the No. 4 seed at the Serbian Open this coming week in Belgrade. Clay is Wawrinka’s surface of choice and provides the Swiss an excellent chance to make up some lost ground in 2010.
10. Ivan Ljubicic (Last Power Ranking: 7; ATP Ranking: 14)
Last Four Tournaments: Rome [R16]; Monte Carlo [R16]; Miami [R128]; Indian Wells [Winner].
Power Ranking Points: 265
Still not recovered completely from his injury, Ljubicic has not been able to recreate his Indian Wells hard-court success. He will next play in Estoril as the No. 2 seed with Federer as No. 1.
Ljubicic hopes to gain some playing time on the clay ahead of the Masters event in Madrid and the French Open later this month. The Croat wants that big serve to start paying some dividends on the dirt.
Outside Looking In
Tomas Berdych (Last Power Ranking: OLI; ATP Ranking: 16)
Power Ranking Points: 221
After doing well on the American hard courts, Berdych has not quite found his game on clay. He lost early in Rome to Wawrinka and he lost in the round of 16 to Verdasco in Monte Carlo. We have been waiting a long time for Berdych to live up to his promise.
Roger Federer (Last Power Ranking: OLI; ATP Ranking: 1)
Power Ranking Points: 177
We simply keep waiting for Federer to begin his clay campaign, and so far he has just dipped his toe in the sand and not immersed himself in the clay. Hopefully, he will be able to see some action in Estoril this week. He has championship points to defend in Madrid and, of course, the French Open.