Ever since early April, the clay war has been raging on in the world of tennis. From Casablanca to Belgrade, from Monte-Carlo to Rome, tennis warriors have been fighting it out on the red dirt for glory and pride. As for the past few years, it was predicted that the "king of clay," Rafael Nadal, would once again rule the kingdom of clay.
Only this year, no one saw it coming. A "perfect storm"—named Novak Djokovic.
Besides the French Open—the ultimate prize of the clay season—there are four other significant tournaments in the calendar: the three Masters events in Monte-Carlo, Madrid, Rome, and the only 500 event in Barcelona. Nadal made it to the final in all four events, winning two titles against David Ferrer—but finishing runner-up to Djokovic in the others.
So this year, Djokovic has beaten Nadal four times, all in the finals of Masters events: two on hard-court and two on clay. Will the trend continue if they both make it to the final at Roland Garros?
And what is in store at Roland Garros for Roger Federer, who is yet to overcome Na-No this year? Will Robin Soderling finally be able to come out on top after finishing second-best in the past two French Open finals? Will the Fedal duopoly finally be broken by the Djoker?
Before we take a look at who is hot and who is not heading to Paris, here are a few players who made our top ten list last time but were dropped this time.
Mardy Fish (Last Power Ranking: 4; ATP Ranking: 10)
Mardy Fish was in great form at Miami, advancing all the way to the semifinals before losing to the unbeatable Djokovic. Not long after that, he was able to crack the ATP top ten for the first time in his career. Unfortunately for Fish, actually for all American players, the clay season started right after Miami. Not surprisingly, he enjoyed little success on the red dirt. Though without many points to defend, he was able to retain his No. 10 ranking heading to the French capital.
Juan Martin Del Potro (Last Power Ranking: 5; ATP Ranking: 27)
Del Potro had an impressive season so far, especially considering that he was out of action for much of last season. The tall Argentine has already won two titles this year, including one clay title in Estoril. Unfortunately, he suffered a hip injury before his much anticipated clash with Nadal in Madrid and he subsequently pulled out of Rome as well. His performance at Roland Garros will largely depend on his health and fitness.
Gilles Simon (Last Power Ranking: 8; ATP Ranking: 19)
Gilles Simon had some success on hard-courts this season, winning the Sydney title and making to the quarterfinals at Miami. But he has been struggling on clay so far, winning six matches from five tournaments. This could be partly due to the fact that he missed the entire clay swing last season due to injuries. It is hard to see him have much success at the French Open this year.
Our power rankings try to measure the form of top players based on their recent results. For the list on the women's side, authored by JA Allen, please click here. This season-long series contains contribution from JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Feng Rong (Ronger Fengerer).