Nicolas Almagro picked up the tenth title of his career today by beating Victor Hanescu in the Nice final.
Was it really worth the effort? Considering he didn’t pick up a single ranking point and Roland Garros starts in less than 24 hours you have to wonder.
Especially so when you consider that the winner of the pre-Roland Garros ATP event tends to underperform in the French capital.
I had a similar article about how Auckland and Sydney predict performances at the Australian Open. It highlighted some trends that generally proved to be correct.
One was that the Auckland winner would have an excellent tournament, which turned out to be spot on when David Ferrer went all the way to the semi-finals.
Another was that the Sydney champ wouldn’t have such a good time of it but in fairness to Gilles Simon he drew Roger Federer in the second round.
In that piece I used the mathematically sound system of awarding a numerical value based on how the winner of the aforementioned tournaments performed at Melbourne the following week in relation to his seeding.
Ferrer for example was seeded six (i.e. seeded to go out in the last eight) but reached the semi-finals and therefore gets a +1. You can’t argue with numbers.
For the last 10 years, Auckland winners racked up a score of +4 and Sydney +1.
The ATP event in the week before Roland Garros has moved around at bit in the last ten years, from St Polten to Portschach, followed by one year in St Kitzbuhel before leaving Austria altogether and settling on the Cote d’Azur.
Collectively they score a dismal -8. In other words the champions of said events have generally sucked in Roland Garros.
Last year Richard Gasquet won the battle of the cojones against Fernando Verdasco but bombed out of the first round in Paris, choking a two set lead against Andy Murray.
The year before, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won the last ATP event at Kitzbuhel and also fell at the first hurdle in Paris.
Other winners the week before the clay major to bomb out in the first round include Nicolas Lapentti, Andy Roddick and Filippo Volandri, the champions in St Poelten from 2002-2004, and Juan Monaco, who took the title in Portschach in 2008.
However, it isn’t necessarily a kiss of death and Nikolay Davydenko followed up his St Poelten/Portschach wins in 2005 and 2006 by reaching the French Open semi-finals and quarter-finals respectively.
The warm-up tournament runners up haven’t fared a whole lot better.
Last year Fernando Verdasco reached the last 16 but prior to that three of the four runners-up including Julien Benneteau, Juan Monaco and Andrei Pavel.
Watch out Victor Hanescu.
Anyway, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. If Almagro has a great tournament well…I never claimed this was a scientific study.
If he bombs out early I’ll just say “I told you so” and question the wisdom of expending so much effort just to add yet another Mickey Mouse title to his growing collection.
It’s a win, win but given that Nico is one of the few clay court specialists left in the game I can only hope he bucks the recent trend and brings his best tennis in Paris.