It is one of my favourite times of year, hard tennis has come to an end until the end of July and around Europe the covers come off the clay courts and it all kicks off at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
It is one of the dream locations for tennis in the world on the coast of Monaco…
But who will we have to watch out for?
Holger Rune and Lorenzo Musetti amongst wildcards
Both players are set to make their debut in Monte Carlo. Lorenzo has been really making strides on the tour in the last few months with big wins over Schwartzman, Dimitrov, Wawrinka and Nishikori for the recently turned 19 year old.
Holger Rune who is a couple of years younger but turns 18 at the end of the month will be making his biggest debut to date in his first Masters 1000 event. The wildcard came as a shock to the Dane who has been practicing on site with Djokovic and 2019 champion Fognini and later that day found out he would pick up a wildcard.
Other recipients include Lucas Pouille and Monegasque player Lucas Catarina who is ranked 338 in the world.
Toni Nadal returns to coach a Canadian
Toni Nadal has been use to sitting court-side for Rafael Nadal over the years in Monte-Carlo watching his nephew win title after title but will be helping someone else.
Toni has been spending a lot of his time over the last couple of years at Rafa’s Academy rather than joining Carlos Moya in the coaching team but will be back on the ATP Tour for now with Felix Auger Aliassime.
I like Felix’s game, he is only 20 still but I would say he has been hampered by the disruption on the tour. He will be hoping to improve on his clay record as Masters and Majors winning just 2 of his 6 matches at Masters 1000 Level and is win/less in Paris.
Felix will be up against Christian Garin in round one and could play Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round, Nadal is in the other half of the draw.
Matteo returns to play either Alejandro or Alex
It was fantastic to see Matteo Berrettini kick off his 2021 season in good fashion down in Melbourne and equally sad to see his run in Melbourne come to an end with injury.
I liked what the Italian did on the court in Australia but having missed the last couple of months is back but on the clay courts in Monte-Carlo. Whoever his first match is against will be a big physical test. It’s an interesting one because I wouldn’t say it is his best surface but he does have a better percentage on clay (66% – 28 wins / 14 defeats) than he does on hard courts (52% – 38 wins / 34 defeats).
Alejandro brings excitement to the court, I like his energy and shot making and it is similar for Alex however I have felt the Australian’s game has haltered lately, it’s a little bit stuck and that next level hasn’t come out to play yet.
Will it be No.12 for Rafa? Or do Daniil and Andrey have a surprise upset in them?
Only a handful of players have won in Monte-Carlo since 2005, 11 of the last 15 titles have been won by Rafael Nadal but will he make it No.12?
By the time Rafa takes to court it would have been almost two months since he lost from two sets up to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final eight of the Australian Open, let’s not forget it wasn’t long ago he breezed to a 12th Roland Garros title in unusual conditions.
Rafa’s draw is very favourable, Djokovic, Zverev and Tsitsipas are on the other side and I can’t see him being troubled until the quarter finals. Two of the form players this year have been Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev, both have made big movements on the hard courts and to beat Rafa here would create some serious noise.
Do they have it in them though? Daniil has struggled on clay except for making the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo last time out, Rublev has only won once in Monte-Carlo a few years back…
Is Djokovic the favourite?
World No.1 is unbeaten this year, he hasn’t been seen since Melbourne where he won his 9th Australian Open title so how fresh is he?
Despite all the history Nadal has created here one of the memories has to be the 2013 final where Djokovic defeated the Spaniard in the final, the first and only final he has lost in his career in Monaco.
The problem for Djokovic is his early round matches aren’t that nice… he will either play the impressive Jannik Sinner in the second round or the accomplished clay court player who was runner-up in 2017 in Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
It’s a tough draw, Evans, Lajovic or Hurkacz likely to follow then Zverev or Goffin all before making it to the final eight.
It is worth noting, Djokovic has 36 Masters 1000 titles, Nadal has 35…
Who to watch out for?
There are some very nice clay court battles due to take place in the opening couple of days in Monaco:
Dan Evans vs Dusan Lajovic – Dusan is a finalist from 2019 so does have some big points to defend and could see his run ended by fellow Serb, Novak Djokovic.
David Goffin vs Marin Cilic – Two tour veterans battling it out, Goffin is great to watch on clay and could go on a good run.
Lorenzo Musetti vs Aslan Karatsev – Two of the most inform players at the moment on the tour. Lorenzo has gone from strength to strength each time he takes to court and the rise of Karatsev this year including his run for the final four in Melbourne has been incredible to watch unfold.
Holger Rune vs Casper Ruud – Holger is making his Masters 1000 debut, Casper will be hoping he can make some noise at a big clay event. Both are good clay court players but whoever comes out on top will then face Diego Schwartzman in round two.