While the final lead-up to Roland Garros kicks off in Stuttgart and Marrakech next week, the clay court season has actually been underway for almost two months now with stops in Bogotá, Acapulco, Charleston and Katowice. So who has shown early signs of being a threat at the clay court major?
Let's take it one by one...
Bogotá, Colombia - Copa Claro Colsanitas
The high altitude often produces some unpredictability in Bogotá, and this year was no different as only one of the eight seeds made it through to their appointed quarterfinal spots. But the one who made it through was actually the No.1 seed, Jelena Jankovic, who went on to win the whole thing, beating breakout player of the week Paula Ormaechea, 61 62, for her first WTA title in three years.
"I had a wonderful week here," Jankovic said. "It's been an amazing experience. I'm so happy I came to Bogotá for the first time, and winning my 13th WTA title here makes the experience even better."
Acapulco, México - Abierto Mexicano TELCEL
There was more order at the second clay court tournament of the year in Acapulco, with the Top 3 seeds all making the semifinals - and it was the Top 2 seeds, Sara Errani and Carla Suárez Navarro, who made the final, with Errani coming out like a house on fire, winning the first eight games on the day and eventually prevailing, 60 64. It was the Italian's first ever successful WTA title defense.
"I'm so happy I closed it out at the end. I'm even happier because it's my first time defending a WTA title," Errani commented. "I love this tournament - it's a really special tournament for me."
Charleston, USA - Family Circle Cup
Serena Williams beat Venus Williams in their much-anticipated 24th meeting in the semifinals and then took out another familiar foe in the final, Jelena Jankovic - but she had to go three sets to do it, dropping the first set before going on to win, 36 60 62. And Williams was the No.1 seed, too, meaning the first three clay court tournaments of the year were all conquered by their No.1 seeds.
"After the first set I just relaxed and was like, 'Serena, you have to chill out and not get crazy and if you win, great. If not, you're trying. Just try and do the best you can,'" Williams said afterwards.
Katowice, Poland - BNP Paribas Katowice Open
The inaugural WTA stop in Katowice got its dream final between the Top 2 seeds, but this time the pattern was broken as the No.1 seed did not finish first - No.2 seed Roberta Vinci overcame the powerful Petra Kvitova in the final just this past weekend, clinching a marathon opening set in a tie-break before rolling to a 76(2) 61 victory. The crafty Italian improved to 8-1 in WTA finals.
"I played a really good game today," Vinci said after beating Kvitova in the final. "Everything was working for me all week. I'm happy I was able to beat such a tough opponent and win this title."
What's to come...
After this week there are five more weeks in the French Open lead-up, with seven more opportunities for the WTA stars to lift titles - Stuttgart and Marrakech next week, Oeiras the week after, then Madrid, then Rome, then Brussels and Strasbourg in the last week of the lead-up to the clay court Grand Slam.
Check back with wtatennis.com as the road to Roland Garros continues...