The Tennis Masters Plans for the 2008 Clay Season

By: Claudia Beckford

As we enter the European clay-court portion of the ATP Masters season many big names in the sport have already began their training to get set for the coming challenges the red courts will bring. Amongst them there is Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic; who is strongly pursuing the number one spot. Djokovic whose last appearances where at Indian Wells where he obtained the title and at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami where he was ousted in the first round; has officially announced he will participate in the three majors clay events in Monaco, Hamburg and Rome.

During the 2007 season and so far into the 2008 ATP season the Serb has become the strongest opponent to take on both masters; Nadal and Federer and claim either ranking positions. Nevertheless, Djokovic admits he learns something new every day and he can only hope to keep developing his skills as he has done for the past years.

Great Britain's number one player Andy Murray who had a relatively good come back after his absence due to a wrist injury; has recently slipped out from the top 20; fact which has become a major concern for the Scott. Murray has contacted Spaniard clay court expert French Open runner-up Alex Corretja to become part of his team of experts. Corretja whose background speak for himself achieved 17 titles before retiring in 2004. The Spaniard stated he has seem Murray's potential to play in different surfaces and will gladly be part of his group. Murray's campaign will kick off in Valencia, Spain next April 14th.

Then there is the Swiss superstar Roger Federer who arrives title less to the end of the first quarter of the year. Federer's 2008 ATP season began with many bumps on the road as he had to withdraw from his usual practice event in Australia due to an illness. He then moved in to the first Grand Slam of the year in Australia; but at this point we all saw something was just not right. Nevertheless, Federer played all matches and arrived to the finals where he lost to Novak Djokovic. His second stop at the Dubai Open was overshadowed by a quick first round exit and finally his other two appearances at the Masters Series events in California and Miami where he made to the semi finals and quarterfinals respectively.

Federer admitted he has been looking for answers to his drought but his trainers and doctors insist he is still recovering from his illness and he is not yet at a 100 percent. The Swiss master's career has been almost superhuman as he claimed in only four years most of his 12 Grand Slam titles.

Nevertheless; Federer will participate for the first time at the 2008 Estoril Open in Portugal in order to gain more practice and better his game on this type of surface. Furthermore; he will continue his tune up in Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg on his way to Paris to participate at the not yet conquered French Open; where he has reached the final the last two years losing to Rafael Nadal.

World number two Rafa Nadal who is also without a title has managed to shorten the point distance to just 670 points. But he will soon be facing as well the pressure of the red surface that has given him his three Grand Slams titles. Besides holding his titles in Barcelona, Rome and Paris the raging bull will still need to win in Hamburg to surpass the Swiss Fed and this is not an easy task.

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