Casper Ruud vs. Cristian Garin in Houston and Benoit Paire vs. Pablo Andujar in Morocco are two finals in Houston and Morocco, respectively, that represent youth and experience on the ATP Tour.
All four finalists will look to build upon their runs in the first clay-court event of the spring in the weeks ahead—and hopefully overcome a peculiar roadblock at the year’s second Grand Slam, the French Open.
Since 2010, only one player has reached at least the quarterfinals at Roland Garros the same year after winning one of these titles.
Clay-court standouts such as Stan Wawrinka, Juan Monaco and Fernando Verdasco have been denied at Roland Garros only weeks after a perfect start to the spring clay-court season. The only Houston or Marrakech champion that’s managed a run this decade to the final eight at the French Open has been Tommy Robredo, who in 2013 beat Kevin Anderson in the Morocco for his first title in two years.
Robredo’s French Open was particularly memorable that year, as he rallied from two-sets-to-love down in three of his first four matches before David Ferrer brought his time at the tournament to an end.
Garin and Ruud, the Houston finalists, have made significant strides this year on the clay, with both having recently had success during the “Golden Swing” of Latin America earlier this year.
The hard-court tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami offered a brief respite from the clay, but it doesn’t appear to have affected those two in Houston as they each try to win their first title. In Morocco, Paire and Andujar faced each other in a matchup between tour veterans. Andujar has been on a tear, entering Morocco after having won back-to-back Challengers.
Can he make a solid run in Roland Garros? He’s been playing at a nearly unstoppable level on the dirt this year. The trick will be to maintain that form through the biggest clay-court event of them all.
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