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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So the clay season is about to start, and it isn't a traditional strength for Australians.

I think this year might mark the start of a new era though, so thought a thread to keep a track of what happens might be worthwhile, and to kick it off, here's my appraisal of some of the prospects. Others may have a different take though, and I haven't included everyone here, so please do add/comment on the list (more or less in order of how well I think they'll do).

Kyrgios (current liveranking: 34)

Mr Kyrgios' ATP player profile says that he 'enjoys playing on all surfaces' and will surely be looking to at least equal his grass and hard slam quarter-final runs with a clay run at Roland Garros this year. And he has every prospect of doing so in my view.

His challenger record on clay is outstanding - two titles, and a 10:1 win: loss ratio.

More importantly, Kyrgios' first ever grand slam match win was at Roland Garros back in 2013 (when he was still also playing juniors), over Radek Stepanek, then ranked 52. He went down in the next round to then world number 11 Marin Cilic.

Last year he was unlucky to draw Raonic in the first round of RG. If he manages to stay uninjured long enough to play a few lead up matches, though, this year he could be seeded for RG, and could then hope to earn enough points to put him in pole position for his Wimbly run...

Kokkinakis (current live ranking: 106)

Mr Kokkinakis nominates his favourite surfaces as clay and hard.

The clay is easy to understand - he won his very first professional ranking point on it almost exactly four years ago at the tender age of 14 (albeit a week shy of his fifteenth birthday).

His best result to date on clay is a semi-final last year at the Heilbronn Challenger, his deepest challenger run to date (and given his tour level results he may well never play another challenger!). Admittedly his other two clay results last year were first round crash outs but that largely reflects some unlucky draws in the form of Donald Young (81) and one Nicolas Kyrgios.

Expect Kokkinakis to make the jump into the top 100 (and more) early in the clay season this year.

Unless he is amazingly lucky though, unlikely to make the RG MD cut, since entry closes this coming week. Which raises an interesting question: will he get the TA wc (my bet would be yes)??!

Groth (current live ranking - 92)

Mr Groth made the RG doubles SF last year, and so will be looking to defend those points, as well as make his mark in doubles at least, at the clay masters.

Up until now he hasn't chosen to play much by way of singles on clay (beyond a few rounds of qualifying for RG). His lower level clay record isn't too shabby though - a futures title on clay, and semi-final at St Brieuc Challenger back in 2010.

Could be a dark horse once again in the Aussie field.

Tomic (live ranking: 27)

Clay has never been a great strength for Tomic (except where the Davis Cup is involved) and last year the only match he won was qualifying round 1 at Madrid v Llodra.

But last year he was still recovering from that hip surgery. He also seems pretty keen to keep up with or better Messrs Kyrios/Kokkinakis, plus will have seeding, so might yet surprise.

Matosevic (current live ranking: 78)

Made his grand slam breakthrough last year at Roland Garros so will clearly be hoping to go one better this year. Had a reasonable set of results on clay last year, including qualifying for Monte Carlo and Madrid, and winning three tour level matches (including one at Madrid).

Duckworth (current live ranking: 85)

Clay isn't his preferred surface, but he does have five futures titles on it. Some of his most inconsistent results last year occurred on clay though, making it a little hard to assess his prospects.

But he made the finals of the Santiago challenger last year and has made it through qualifying for RG twice, so in with more than a chance of doing well now that he has the ranking for main draw direct entry in the bag.

Bolt (current live ranking: 159)

In hot form at the moment and has a fairly good record on clay, currently 8:5 at challenger level. Could make a good showing in RG qualifying.

Kubler (current live ranking: 154)

Australia's clay specialist, with one challenger title from last year. Kubler is yet to be really tested at tour level however. He made a poor start to the year (currently stands at 0:2) and hasn't played for the last couple of months, and so has dropped back in the rankings. Makes a return at Sarasota next week though and doesn't have many points to defend over the next couple of months.

At the beginning of the year he looked like he had a lock on the RG wildcard. Lack of recent form and competition in the form of Mr Kokkinakis (and others) though may have put that in jeopardy.

Hewitt (live ranking: 108)

Clay is obviously not his surface, but he is just two match wins short of a hundred on clay, would be so nice to get those before he retires. That said, only managed one win last year off four tournies, and his form since has fallen drastically. He is entered for Houston though, so may yet make it if he gets a good draw.

Will he want to play RG this year? Seems doubtful - he hasn't won a match there in five years.
 

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On the Tennis Australian website it said he favoured fast clay.. O well, you can conclude that he likes and plays well on all surfaces.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Houston doubles action - Groth-Butorac, Gucc-Bra, Hewitt-Reid.

Rather curious set of pairings...
 

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Groth gets the first Aussie win on the red... well uh... on the green stuff, in the first round at Houston. Good to see him firing again, albeit in downing old man Victor Estrella Burgos 76(3) 64. Go the Groth
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Yep nice start!

Alas Gooch (doubles) and Matosevic went down in their respective matches.
 

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Lleyton Hewitt lost to Soeda in the first round 4/6 7/6 6/3. Hopefully he is enjoying his farewell trips around the world and receives a lovely reception from the fans to boot.
 

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And Tomic is away in Europe on th clay with a win at Monte Carlo over lukas rosol again, though this time in 3. Didnt realise they started some 1st rounders last night but he's already taken more clay points than he did for the entire of last year.

On the flip side Groth and Duckworth are conspicuous by there absence from alt lists for the full tour on clay while been present on asian hard court challengers entry lists. TBH i thought groth would follow the big events for his doubles and Ducky would want to capitalise a little on his current position and play some bigger tournaments. Still they might show up on some qualies lists.
 

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An-Ning Challenger is on clay, isn't it? That's where Duckworth is going, but you are right that Grothy is back on hard in Taipei - which makes his comments in Houston about "might have to add more clay tournaments to my schedule" make a little more sense.

I think it's partially about timing for those two as well. Barring the week after the AO, Sam Groth has played a tournament or DC in every week possible since the start of the season; OK, he might have bombed out early in a few of these, but I wouldn't begrudge a short rest after that sort of schedule. And with his ranking pretty much back to where it began 2015, an eye on vulturing some rankings on hard in a Challenger or two might build confidence before heading back to clay in May.

As for James, don't forget that his rankings boost has come too late to have a huge impact on the early part of the clay season, so even in qualies he'd be well down the pecking order for a few weeks yet. Losing 40 points from last year this week, he also has an eye on gaining ground before RG, hence the entry into An-Ning.
 

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An-Ning Challenger is on clay, isn't it? That's where Duckworth is going, but you are right that Grothy is back on hard in Taipei - which makes his comments in Houston about "might have to add more clay tournaments to my schedule" make a little more sense.

I think it's partially about timing for those two as well. Barring the week after the AO, Sam Groth has played a tournament or DC in every week possible since the start of the season; OK, he might have bombed out early in a few of these, but I wouldn't begrudge a short rest after that sort of schedule. And with his ranking pretty much back to where it began 2015, an eye on vulturing some rankings on hard in a Challenger or two might build confidence before heading back to clay in May.

As for James, don't forget that his rankings boost has come too late to have a huge impact on the early part of the clay season, so even in qualies he'd be well down the pecking order for a few weeks yet. Losing 40 points from last year this week, he also has an eye on gaining ground before RG, hence the entry into An-Ning.
Good point, I did think they were both hard court tournaments but I see you are corrct, still even having to Qualify I'd like to see James play more week in week out with those around the top hundred just to consistently play at that level, but there is logic to the point gain theory too. Hopefully it works out for him.
 

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Good point, I did think they were both hard court tournaments but I see you are corrct, still even having to Qualify I'd like to see James play more week in week out with those around the top hundred just to consistently play at that level, but there is logic to the point gain theory too. Hopefully it works out for him.
I'd also have liked to see Ducky playing tour qualies (for which the deadline is only 3 weeks, so his recent rankings rises would have given him a high seeding for either Istanbul or Estoril). He has minimal points to defend until RG now with Santiago coming off, and he's done better so far this year playing tour events (including qualies) than Challengers, with the exception of his run in Kolkata. Hopefully he goes deep at An-Ning and vindicates his decision. An-Ning looks like a great opportunity for a few Aussies to go deep - they're highly seeded and primarily up against Asian players, which means the surface isn't really a disadvantage for them.

Separately, Kubler is playing Sarasota this week - would be good for him to get a win or two under his belt given his disappointing start to the year.
 

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I'd also have liked to see Ducky playing tour qualies ...
Separately, Kubler is playing Sarasota this week - would be good for him to get a win or two under his belt given his disappointing start to the year.
Koobs does get a win - getting up against Michal Przysiezny (ATP 142), coming from a set down to win 67(4) 63 61. Good win. :)
Will play the winner of young Chung or old man Zeballos next.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
On tour qualies vs challengers, there is something to be said for consolidating ranking via challengers and ideally getting points high enough for direct entry.

Qualies means a lot of of matches for minimal points - good if you are learning from the match experience and can be consistent, but high risk otherwise.

Kokkinakis made the tour qualies strategy work but really only by winning that wildcard - Chung was earning more points up until his IW run by sticking to challengers. Personally I think the Kokk should throw in a challenger or two to get there faster (unless he has a slew of wildcards up his sleeve, which is possible).

And if you have in front of you the salutary experience of Mr Ebden (now at 329), Duckworth and Groth mixing in some challengers might seem particularly prudent!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
French Open doubles list is out:

Kyrgios-Bhupathi
Butorac-Groth
Duckworth-Guccione
Junaid-Shamasdin
Murray-Peers

Would have liked to see the Kokk on it, but...
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
We're coming up to the final week before RG - Groth (qualies), Duckworth, Nick, Bernie and the Kokk all on the list for Nice this week but it wouldn't be surprising if we saw some withdrawals/tanking from the special Ks. Still, thought it would be interesting to take a look at how everyone is going on the clay season so far.

Here is how the leaderboard looks ranking point wise (points earned in the clay season last year excluding RG in brackets for comparison purposes):

Kyrgios 240 (180)
Kokkinakis 162 (41) - Edit: Bordeaux w
Tomic 90 (16)
Duckworth 59 (61)
Van Peperzeel 55
Kubler 33 (49)
Ebden 33 (0)
Millman 18
Bolt 8 (147)
Matosevic 0 (127)
Hewitt 0 (30)
 
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