The ATP Tour begins its longest stretch on a single surface on Monday, April 4. For more than two full months, all ATP Tour matches will be contested on outdoor clay. The exclusive clay season concludes with the men’s Roland Garros final scheduled for June 5th in Paris.
This 12 tournament stretch includes seven ATP Tour 250 events, an ATP 500 tournament, three separate Masters 1000 events and a Grand Slam. Two 250 point events start Monday in Houston, Texas and Marrakech, Morocco. Following the first week, the ten subsequent tournaments will be played exclusively in Europe.
ATP Tour’s Clay Season Is Here
Nadal Reigns Supreme
To even casual tennis fans, a healthy Rafael Nadal is known to be a favorite in any clay event he enters. Nadal holds a career 464-43 record on outdoor clay, along with 62 tour level titles. That’s correct, Nadal has won more clay-court tournaments then he has lost clay-court matches. What?
Digging deeper into the his numbers, Nadal has won more clay matches than the rest of the world’s top 6 players combined. His closest clay chaser, still world #1 Novak Djokovic, trails Nadal by over 200 match wins on the surface.
Handicapping the Top 5
While Nadal has dominated the clay for years, he is injured and his availability is unknown. Likewise, Djokovic’s status remains a tournament to tournament mystery. With these megastars in question, other top 5 players are lurking.
World #2 Daniil Medvedev may be the reflexive choice for someone to claim multiple trophies, but the numbers say otherwise. The Russian actually holds a 15-21 career record on the surface. Additionally, he is the only player in the current top eight players in the world to never have won an ATP title on clay. Medvedev is a great player, but not a great clay-court player.
Those looking to wager must consider world #3 Alexander Zverev to make a significant splash over the coming two months. The 24-year-old holds a solid 93-37 career clay record and has claimed 6 tour level titles on clay. He is only 11-4 this season, but may be ready to break out. Likewise, Stefanos Tsitsipas, with a 60-21 career clay record is a favorite to go deep at any clay event. In 2021, the Greek star played spectacularly on clay. He won 23 matches against only five losses and picked up two titles. He should be ready to roll in the coming weeks.
Also Watch For…
World #8 Casper Ruud played only his 17th tour level match of 2022 in the hard court final at the Miami Open, still he should be a popular choice. The 23-year-old from Norway actually nabbed 28 wins on the surface, the most clay court wins of any player in 2021. Ruud entered nine clay court events and claimed 4 titles. He’s young, has confidence and clay suits his game. Watch out.
While the top ten players often gain the most attention, they are not always the best bets. In 2021, current world #9, Felix Auger-Aliassime and #10 Hubert Hurkacz each lost more than they won on clay. Auger-Aliassime managed 20 wins against 21 losses while Hurkacz mustered only a 9-18 record. While some young guns struggled, veterans Albert Ramos Vinolas and Federico Delbonis, who sit outside of the world top 30 played very well on clay. Ramos Vinolas actually tied Tsitsipas for the second most clay wins with 23. Delbonis matched Nadal’s win total of 19, the fourth highest match-win total on tour.
And of course, Carlos Alcaraz
No ATP preview is complete without an eye on 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz. The Spanish star already hold two ATP level titles on the surface, as well as a sparkling 6-0 2022 clay record. No close observer will overlook the teenage star as he returns to a favorite surface as well as significant tournaments being held in his home country. A good bet to make some noise. In fact, lots of noise.
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