After winning the first two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles of the year, can Novak Djokovic continue his supremacy in the Monte Carlo Masters as the clay season gets underway?
A strong field is lined-up, with 16 of the top 20 players in men’s tennis set to take part. Although Andy Murray – finalist at the last ATP Masters tournament in Miami – is a notable absentee as he will be getting married.
Djokovic is the man of the moment. Dominating the ATP Masters tour to date, and soaring clear as number one in the world.
The French Open has thus far evaded the Serbian – the only major that has – and he will be eager to wrench that title from Rafael Nadal’s almighty grip when the tournament gets underway in May. There’s a strong correlation between success at the Monte Carlo Masters and the French Open though – in that the winner at the Monte Carlo Masters tends to duplicate that success at Roland Garros – although that is based almost solely on Nadal’s dominance.
Djokovic did end Nadal’s stronghold on the Monte Carlo Masters in 2013 when he beat him in the final, however he crashed out at the semi-final stage to Roger Federer last year.
There’s no doubt that Djokovic is the man to beat here, although he does lie in the same half of the draw as Nadal – potentially lining up an epic semi-final encounter.
Much like the French Open – which is also played on clay – Rafael Nadal has been the dominant force at the Monte Carlo Masters for the best part of a decade, winning the tournament for a remarkable eight consecutive years from 2005 to 2012.
Nadal’s reign of terror in Monte Carlo ended in 2013 after being defeated by Novak Djokovic in the final, while he slumped to a disappointing quarter-final straight sets defeat to compatriot David Ferrer at last year’s competition.
The Majorcian left-hander is struggling to get back to anywhere near his peak form after a couple of injury-blighted years, suffering a quarter-final defeat to Milos Raonic at the Indian Wells Masters and a shock third-round loss to fellow Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco in the Miami Open.
He needs to start finding his form soon if he wants retain his French Open title to make it a remarkable 10th title in 11 years at Roland Garros.
Remarkably – despite reaching the final four times – Roger Federer has never won the Monte Carlo Masters.
He must have thought he was finally going to break his duck when he went one set up and reached a tie-break in the second against Stanislas Wawrinka in the final last year, but his compatriot managed to turn the tie on its head and win the trophy after all.
There could be a re-run of that final at the quarter-final stage this year, as Federer and Wawrinka lie in the same section of the draw. If he can by-pass Wawrinka though, you’d expect him to reach the final, where he would likely meet Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal who are on the same half of the draw.