The Canadians: Raonic and Shapovalov liking clay, at least today

It was a very big day, in Madrid, with Milos Raonic knocking down  Grigor Dimitrov 7-5 3-6 6-3. Then, the 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov survived Benoit Paire 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4. Both of them don’t love the dirt, but then again, when you win, you will think, “Hmmm, maybe I actually really love clay.” 

That is what happens, when month after month, you are sliding, digging and learning. If you live in Canada, which both of them do, it is way north, so during the year, it is pretty cold for six months, so to play outside, that is almost impossible. You have to play inside, and it is very rare to find clay courts. It must be a solid 95 percent of the courts are hard. So, for the Canadian players, it is unusual that they really know how to hit deep and hard on the clay.
However, on certain days, they remember how to construct points, be patient and never give in. Remember that the Spaniards are addicted to the clay, they play for months, all over the place, when it is warm, and they win a lot, such as Rafa Nadal, who has won everything.

Both 27-year-old Raonic and 19-year-old Shapovalov are huge hitters, with big the forehands and first serves. During the European swing, they have to think and listen. Apparently, they did on Tuesday. 

The thing about Raonic is that over the year and a half — or even longer — injuries slows him down. He is a damn good player when he is on the court, But when he retires, or he pulls out, then his frustration mounts. More than two weeks ago, he pulled out from Monte Carlo due to a right knee injury. Will he survive Madrid? I hope so.

Guess what: Raonic and Shapovalov will face off in the next round. That should be a classic match. They know each other pretty well. The young kid never gets nervous, but Raonic does. He must feel the heat as the youngster starts crawling up his back. It will be very interesting contest.

The women
That was a heck of a win by Carla Suarez Navarro, outlasting Elina Svitolina 2-6 7-6(3) 6-4. She won, she wept, because she never backed off and she wants to win in Spain. Over the years, the 29-year-old had a number of excellent matches on clay. Can she actually win a Grand Slam, with her best shot at Roland Garros? I doubt it, but she can go far at Madrid. Three years ago in Rome on clay, she reached the final. She is capabl
No. 1 Simona Halep won, smoking Elise Mertens, but I am sure she was exhausted. The 22-year-old won Lugano, the Fed Cup and  Rabat, before she came over to Madrid. That is a lot of matches. Regardless,  Belgian Mertens is already very good, she is ranked No. 16, and at some point, she will crack the top 10. To do so, though, she has to go deep in Rome and at Roland Garros. That is a huge challenge.

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