Sunday 18 March 2018 / 02:59 AM

Melancholic Madrid Mourns Elena Baltacha

The clay season is now well underway, and as the countdown to the French Open continues, this week has seen plenty of excitement in Madrid, with the Spanish tournament beginning on Monday.

Some perspective-changing news to begin

It has been a sombre week for those taking part in the Madrid Open after the news broke that Elena Baltacha had passed away following liver cancer.

The former British No.1 was diagnosed with the illness in January 2014, and died at home on May 4th. Everyone at Commentary Box Sports would like to express their sorrow and condolences to everyone associated with Elena.

Djokovic not playing

Perhaps the big tennis news of the week in Madrid so far has been the fact that Novak Djokovic is not competing, with the Serb still suffering with the effects of the wrist injury he picked up in the Monte Carlo Masters tournament in April.

The world number two had hoped to be fit to play in Madrid, but pulled out at the last minute after a reoccurrence of the wrist problem.

The extent of Djokovic’s injury is not known, and the Serb is hoping to be able to play in Rome next week, but the reoccurrence is a real worry ahead of the French Open. Rome will be the last opportunity for ATP players to do battle before the second Grand Slam of the year, and Djokovic will be hoping to be fighting fit and in good form for the French. Given the way that he has performed so far this year, there have been plenty of people tipping him to be the man that finally beats Nadal at the French but the reality is that he has not had anything like the preparation that he would have liked.

High profile men’s exits

Given his sparkling form in 2014 so far, it was a massive surprise to see third seed Stanislas Wawrinka lose in the second round at Madrid, the Swiss winning the first set in emphatic fashion before losing the final two sets 2-6 4-6 against young Austrian Dominic Thiem.

Tommy Haas and Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga were two other high profile exits, losing to Igor Sijsling and Santiago Giraldo respectively, but probably the biggest shock of the tournament so far has been the third round exit of British hope Andy Murray.

Tsonga’s conqueror Giraldo was the one to vanquish the Scot, and although the world number 46 has clearly been in tremendous form, there are clear alarm bells ringing in the Murray camp.

Since splitting with coach Ivan Lendl in March, Murray’s form has been on a downward spiral and the Scot appears directionless without a coach to guide him. His relationship with Lendl coincided with the most fruitful period of his career so far as he swept to both the US Open and Wimbledon, picking up an Olympic gold medal along the way. His split from Lendl as well as his back surgery at the end of 2013 has meant that Murray has really not been at the races so far this season, and there appears to be no end in sight for this current bout of poor form.

US legend John McEnroe is the latest to be linked with the Murray coaching job, with the Scot suggesting that he will make a decision imminently. Judging by the way he has performed without Lendl, it seems that a new relationship cannot begin soon enough.

Nadal the man to beat in Madrid

As one would expect, with Djokovic, Federer and Murray all out of the picture, number one seed Rafael Nadal is the strong favourite to win in Madrid, and a Masters victory here would no doubt do wonders for the Spaniard’s confidence ahead of Rome and Roland Garros.

Nadal hasn’t been at his best in recent weeks, bowing out in the quarterfinals of both the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open, but looks certain to win in Madrid and restore some much-needed confidence ahead of the French.

Serena steamroller as per usual

Following the news of Elena Baltacha’s untimely death, the women’s side of the draw has understandably been rather more sombre than normal, but there has still been some fantastic tennis to get excited about.

To the surprise of precisely no one, Serena Williams continues her dominance, with the American yet to drop a set and having only lost 12 games in three full matches. Nevertheless, as this year has shown, results in the women’s game are no longer a foregone conclusion, and there is every chance that someone will emerge to topple Serena if they can catch her on a ‘slightly less good day’ (bad days don’t tend to happen).

With Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska still in the hunt, anything could still happen, and the second half of this year’s tournament promises to be compelling and captivating in equal measure.

The clay season is well and truly up and running, and on both sides of the draw, players are doing all they can to get themselves ready for the French. Given the fact that everyone at the top table appears able to beat everyone else, the clay season promises to be the most open it has been for years. Let the good times roll.


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About the author

Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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