This past week, the ATP and WTA tours would have been hosting their showcase clay-court events in the United States in Houston and Charleston, S.C., respectively.
Baseline is taking a look at several players who have left their marks on the tournaments in the 2000s, from current and future Hall of Famers to all-around solid performers. (All photos: Getty Images)
In 2003, the Belgian captured her first career Grand Slam title at the French Open. Her clay-court campaign that year got off to a successful start when she claimed the top prize in Charleston, knocking off Serena Williams in the final. Two years later, she triumphed in Charleston again, defeating Elena Dementieva for the title. And just like in ’03, she’d ride that momentum through the clay-court season to win in Paris.
One week after winning his first career title on the green clay courts in Atlanta, the 18-year-old budding superstar ran his winning streak to 10 matches in a row by coming in first in Houston. Roddick defended his title the next year, defeating Pete Sampras in the final, but in 2003, he lost the championship match to another elder statesman, Andre Agassi. Making finals in Houston became the norm for the former world No. 1 as he reached the title round in 2004 and triumphed again in 2005.
When Henin won her first title in Charleston in 2003, she stopped Williams’ perfect start to the year, dealing the American her first loss in 22 matches. Five years later, though, Williams couldn’t be derailed when she hit the green clay in South Carolina, defeating Vera Zvonareva in the final for her first title there. The following year, she pulled off another title-winning run, one that kicked off a perfect stretch on the clay over the next few months that led to her second career victory at Roland Garros.
Over the course of his career playing in Houston, the Argentine experienced triumph there from two different perspectives. In 2012, as the fourth seed, he won his second title of the year, topping John Isner in the final. That result brought him to a then-career-high No. 14 in the world. Four years later, though, it was a completely different story. Suffering from a loss of form for nearly a year, the former world No. 10 entered the tournament ranked 148 in the world. After battling through a tough three-setter in the first round, he topped four seeds in a row, including defending champion Jack Sock in the final, to win his first title in three years.
One of the greatest college tennis players in history, the American has had an impressive run in the pros, as well, with much of his success coming in Houston. In 2017, Johnson won his first clay-court title there, beating Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci a third-set tiebreak. What he accomplished the next year might have been more impressive. Battling through a whirlwind of emotions as the 2017 final was the last match his father saw him play before his untimely passing, Johnson defended his title, beating five of his compatriots in a row.