The clay-court season is in full swing and the world’s best players are using it to their advantage as they prepare for the second Grand Slam of the year, at Roland Garros. A change in court surface could not have come sooner for the following players, who will be looking to turn their 2018 season around with strong performances in the coming months.
Kristina Mladenovic’s struggles have been well-documented over the past months. The Frenchwoman had an abysmal end to the 2017 season, losing 15 straight matches. At the St. Petersburg Open, earlier this year, the 24-year-old finally ended this string of first round exits and captured her first win in over six months. Mladenovic is still gaining confidence and will be placed under immense pressure as she tries to defend 60 percent of her ranking points in the upcoming tournaments. Currently sitting at 19th in the world, Mladenovic will need to produce exceptional clay-court performances to keep her ranking within the world’s top 20.
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Since coming back from injury, Novak Djokovic has only managed three wins (all of which came at the Australian Open). The former World No. 1 has struggled with his serve and these troubles have led to uncharacteristic loses against the likes of Taro Daniel and Benoit Paire. The Serbian is currently ranked 13th but will have to defend 1500 points (64% of his total ranking points) during the clay-court swing. Djokovic produced strong performances on clay in 2017, finishing runner-up in Rome and reaching the quarterfinals at the French Open. However, if the 30-year-old does not repeat these performances he will likely fall outside of the world’s top 20 for the first time since October 2006.
Samantha Stosur has been plagued by injury recently, which has led to a dramatic drop in the Australian’s ranking. The 34-year-old fell outside of the world’s top 50 earlier this year and will potentially drop further if she is unable to replicate an outstanding 2017 clay-court season. Stosur will have to defend 69% of her ranking points over the coming months, which includes a title at Strasbourg and a Round of 16 run at Roland Garros. The former US Open Champion has struggled to win consecutive matches this season. Stosur will have to put this early season disappointment behind her and find form quickly if she is to stay inside the world’s top 100.
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