After the Sunshine Double of Indian Wells and Miami, tennis has moved to the clay court swing.
This Sunday, the first of three Masters 1000s on the red stuff kicks off in Monte Carlo. While Roger Federer has decided to give it a miss, most of the ATP’s finest are on the Côte d’Azur.
Let’s take a closer look at the outrageously favoured favourite… and three guys who could shake up the draw.
Here’s one for you: world no.5 Dominic Thiem has won 12 titles so far in his career. Rafael Nadal has won 11 titles so far in Monte Carlo.
The King of Clay is 68-4 on the French Riviera and some magnificence will be required to stop the 32-year-old. This is Nadal’s first tournament since he withdrew from Indian Wells with knee trouble. The Spaniard skipped Miami the following week and has been recuperating at his snazzy academy in Mallorca in the meantime.
According to Metro’s George Bellshaw, the defending champion has looked good in practice. Here’s a taster:
Last practice at the #RafaNadalAcademy! 🔥
— Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar (@rnadalacademy) April 11, 2019
Nadal has a bye in the first round but could face a gruelling clash with Roberto Bautista Agut in the second. Moving on, he could meet talented teen Denis Shapovalov in the third round and former Monte Carlo champion Stan Wawrinka in the last eight.
“For me, it is the most comfortable tournament of the year in terms of everything,” Nadal said in a pre-tournament press conference. With Novak Djokovic a little out of sorts, it looks very much like Nadal’s title for the 12th time.
While the world no.1’s form has dipped of late, this 25-year-old couldn’t be more confident. If it weren’t for the King of Clay, I might have put the Austrian as favourite for the title.
Thiem claimed the biggest title of his career last month in Indian Wells, dispatching Roger Federer in the final to do so. A clay court guru, the world no.5 enters his favourite stage of the season in excellent form.
Thiem (7/1 to win outright) will be very disappointed if he doesn’t advance to the quarter here. At that point, he could face the towering and talented Karen Khachanov who is dangerous this week in his own right.
When he’s not improving YouTube with artsy video logs, this gifted 20-year-old Greek dismantles stars on the ATP Tour.
The Tsitsipas surge over the last 12 months has propelled him to the top 10. He is likely to stay there for the next decade barring injury or a spectacular collapse in form.
Already a title winner this season in Marseille, the Greek was also a finalist in Dubai and roared to the last four in Melbourne where he outlasted Mr. Federer. Tsitsipas is also handy on this surface having made the final in Barcelona last year.
The steady Daniil Medvedev could prove troublesome in the third round but Tsitsipas (33/1 to win overall) will fancy getting into the last eight to cause some hassle.
Demies finales théoriques de ce Rolex Monte Carlo Masters : Tsitsipas vs Djokovic et Zverev vs Nadal #rolexmcmasters #mccc #atptour #atptourmasters1000 #tennis #monaco #montecarlo pic.twitter.com/3RBOlWcBAB
— ROLEX MC MASTERS (@ROLEXMCMASTERS) April 12, 2019
Canadian tennis is going through a golden period right now as three teenagers sit atop the sport. You may have heard of Denis Shapovalov and Bianca Andreescu, but let’s give some words to Felix Auger-Aliassime or FAA.
Tennis nerds like myself first heard about Aliassime four years ago, around the time he earned a maiden ATP ranking point at just 14. Within two years he was ranked in the top 200.
He’s now a top 50 player.
FAA is 12th in the 2019 Race to London after a run to the final in Rio (on clay) and a spectacular fortnight in Miami. He’s already beaten four top 20 players this season and won 14 matches.
Aliassime (80/1 to win outright) resides in an interesting quarter with Sascha Zverev and Kei Nishikori. He starts against a qualifier and then has a great chance to upset the currently discombobulated Zverev in the next round.