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Corona ATP Weekly Slice: Clay Season Under Way With Houston, Casablanca

Corona ATP Slice

Tap into the essentials of the week ahead and re-live the highlights of the past week with Corona ATP Weekly Slice, as we serve up an executive summary of what every fan should know, along with a look at the best in social media.

LOOKING AHEAD

Who’s Playing This Week?
The spring clay-court circuit on the ATP World Tour begins with the lone North American clay tournament, in Houston, and the only African stop of the season, in Casablanca. There are 11 clay-court tournaments in the next seven weeks leading into Roland Garros.

Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship (Houston)
This year's event marks the 80th edition hosted at River Oaks Country Club. There are four former champions in the 28-player field, led by 2013 winner John Isner. Juan Monaco (2012), Lleyton Hewitt (2009) and Ivo Karlovic (2007) have also hoisted trophies in Houston. The top eight seeds are Isner, Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro, Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez, Monaco, Hewitt and Karlovic. All but Lopez and Karlovic have been ranked in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.

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Bryans On A Roll – Four-time U.S. Men’s Clay Court champions and World No. 1 doubles team Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan make their 10th appearance in Houston. The American twins compiled a 3-4 record in their first four outings in this Texas tournament but have gone 19-1 in their last five, winning four titles (2007, '09-'11) and finishing runner-up in 2013 (l. to J. Murray-Peers). The top seeds come into River Oaks with a 13-match winning streak, taking the Delray Beach title (d. Cermak-Elgin) and back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 trophies in Indian Wells (d. Peya-Soares) and Miami (d. Cabal-Farah). They own a record 96 team titles, the most in the Open Era.

Grand Prix Hassan II (Casablanca)
The only African tournament on the ATP World Tour, which began in 1984, takes place at the Complexe Sportif Al Amal. Leading the field is top seed Kevin Anderson, whose runner-up finish in 2013 (l. to Robredo) marked his first appearance in a clay-court final. Frenchman Gael Monfils, fresh from clinching France’s berth in the Davis Cup semi-finals, is the second seed. Completing the Casablanca top eight are Benoit Paire, Marcel Granollers, Joao Sousa, Federico Delbonis, Robin Haase and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Paire returns to the ATP World Tour after recovering from knee injury; he last played at the 2014 Australian Open. The only former champion in the Casablanca field is two-time winner Pablo Andujar (2011-'12).

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Gael Returns – World No. 24 Monfils accepted a wild card into Casablanca and makes a second attempt at the African trophy. He lost in the second round in 2008 (l. to Hernandez). Monfils is off to a 14-5 start in 2014, capturing his fifth career ATP World Tour title in Montpellier (d. Gasquet) in February and finishing runner-up to Rafael Nadal in Doha. Last weekend, French Davis Cup captain Arnaud Clement assigned Monfils to the fifth rubber in their tie against Germany in the World Group quarter-finals. Monfils completed France’s comeback from a 0-2 deficit by defeating Peter Gojowczyk 6-1, 7-6(0), 6-2.

Potential Milestones (Career match wins as of 7 April 2013)

Casablanca – Doubles
Horia Tecau – 197 wins

Juan Monaco is one win away from 200 clay-court victories. The Argentine is entered in Houston along with two of four active players with at least 200 clay-court wins: Robredo (235) and Almagro (234). Nadal tops the list of victories on dirt with 298, followed by David Ferrer (267), Robredo and Almagro.

Emirates ATP Rankings Movers
Richard Gasquet 10 (+1 spot)
Milos Raonic 11 (-1 spot)
Radek Stepanek 40 (+7 spots)
Andrey Golubev 59 (+5 spots)
Steve Johnson 69 (+29 spots)

Young Stars on Rise – Of the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, three players born in the 1990s compete in Casablanca, led by Delbonis. The 23-year-old left-hander earned his first ATP World Tour title in Sao Paulo (d. Lorenzi) in February, joining Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, and Bernard Tomic as the only players born in the 1990s to own ATP World Tour titles. Also in Casablanca is 22-year-old Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, awarded ATP Most Improved Player of the Year in 2013, and Czech Jiri Vesely. The 20 year old, recipient of the 2013 ATP Star of Tomorrow presented by Emirates, is the youngest player in the Top 100 (No. 67).

Birthdays
7 April - Pere Riba (26)
12 April - Marcel Granollers (28)

Player To Watch: John IsnerIsner
Top American and World No. 9 Isner is making his seventh straight appearance at the River Oaks Country Club. The 28-year-old Tampa resident has an 11-5 record in Houston, reaching the 2012 final and winning his first ATP World Tour clay-court title last season (d. Almagro). Isner returned to the Emirates ATP Rankings Top 10 on 17 March after reaching the semi-finals in Indian Wells (l. to Djokovic). He then rose to No. 9 on 31 March, equaling his career-best (16 April 2012). He has finished as the No. 1 American for the past two years.

How To Watch
Watch coverage of the Grand Prix Hassan II beginning 7 April 2014 and the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship starting 11 April 2014. (Territory restrictions apply.)
Watch Live Powered by Tennis TV | TV Schedule

WEEK IN REVIEW

Twitter Top Tweets

@rogerfederer (Roger Federer)
Merci a tout le monde pour ce soutien incroyable ce week-end! Amazing crowd here in #geneva See you all in September? pic.twitter.com/OrQDbzMg95

@Mike_Dickson_DM (Mike Dickson, Daily Mail writer)
Andy Murray and Colin Fleming dedicating that victory to Elena Baltacha, ex British no. 1 who is fighting liver cancer.

@rohanbopanna (Rohan Bopanna)
Creating history in Busan. India beating Korea in Korea for the first time ever. @DavisCup #WorldGroupCalling. pic.twitter.com/3VkIdTjvsB

@DjokerNole (Novak Djokovic)
Happy International Day of sport for peace and development!We raised white flag as a symbol of peace #JoinUs pic.twitter.com/492wto1W2R

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Video of the Week
ATP World Tour Uncovered reviews the first three months of the season, including Stanislas Wawrinka's major achievement and Novak Djokovic's impressive American run.

In Case You Missed It...

Davis Cup Quarter-finals: Defending champion Czech Republic secured its berth in the World Group semi-finals with a 5-0 sweep of Japan. Switzerland, anchored by Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer, came back from a 1-2 deficit against Kazakhstan to give the Swiss their first semi-final appearance since 2003. France won the final three rubbers in its tie against Germany, sending the nine-time champion into battle against the Czechs in their third semi-final in five years. Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi pulled out a victory from 1-2 down over the British team headlined by Andy Murray.
Fognini Inspires Italy to Victory; Czechs Advance
Federer Saves Swiss Hopes; Monfils Completes French Comeback

Winners of the Davis Cup Group I promotion ties, including Croatia, Ukraine and Israel, advanced to the World Group Play-offs in September.

Tidbits
MurrayAndy Murray got into the April Fools’ Day spirit, pulling a prank through his Twitter account. More...
Rafael Nadal took a break from his clay-court preparations to watch Real Madrid defeat German side Borussia Dortmund 3-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final. More...
Sergiy Stakhovsky talked with ATPWorldTour.com about the last time he cooked, the last time he missed a flight and other topics. Read Q&A...
• ‘The Indo-Pak Express’, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi, shared some memories from the road as part of our "Last Time..." series. Read Q&A...
• Romania’s Marius Copil talked about his racquet and stringing habits as part of Tecnifibre’s ‘Tec Talk’ series. More...
Dominic Thiem, the 20-year-old Austrian, discussed his friendship with Ernests Gulbis, his favourite ice-cream flavour and his solution for pre-match nerves in this Biofile with Scoop Malinowski. Read...
Tommy Haas celebrated his birthday on 3 April, becoming the seventh player to rank inside the Top 20 of the Emirates ATP Rankings as a 36 year old. More...

Photo Gallery: Davis Cup



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