10 Things To Watch In Monte-Carlo
The ATP World Tour continues its clay swing at the first clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event of 2018, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, a 10-time champion in Monaco, leads the field as he attempts to become the first player during the Open Era to claim victory at a tournament 11 times. Four of the Top 5 players in the ATP Rankings will be in action, as will two-time titlist Novak Djokovic.
1) Nadal On Top: World No. 1 and 10-time Monte-Carlo champion Rafael Nadal is playing his first tournament since the Australian Open in January. The Spaniard has been sidelined with a hip injury before returning last weekend to help Spain to a 3-2 Davis Cup win over Germany. This is the 170th week he’s ranked No. 1, tying John McEnroe for sixth-most in the history of the ATP Rankings. The Spaniard must defend his Monte-Carlo crown to remain No. 1 or Roger Federer will take over on 23 April.
2) Rafa A Perfect 10: Last year, Nadal became the first player in the Open Era to win a tournament 10 times. He first accomplished the feat in Monte-Carlo, then in Barcelona and Roland Garros. Nadal, who is playing in Monte-Carlo for the 15th time, and fourth occasion as World No. 1, has a 63-4 record at the event.
3) First-Time Winner Streak: The last three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments have been won by first-time champions: Jack Sock (2017 Paris), Juan Martin del Potro (Indian Wells) and John Isner (Miami). The last time this occurred was in 2003 when Felix Mantilla triumphed in Rome, Guillermo Coria in Hamburg and Andy Roddick in Montreal.
4) Novak Eyes Turnaround: No. 9 seed Novak Djokovic is playing in Monte-Carlo for the 12th time in 13 years (except 2011). The Serbian has a 30-9 record at the tournament, capturing titles in 2013 and 2015, while reaching finals in 2009 and 2012. Djokovic is back working with coach Marian Vajda.
5) Thiem Returns: No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem returns to action after retiring due to an ankle injury in the third round at Indian Wells against Pablo Cuevas on 12 March. Seven of Thiem’s nine career ATP World Tour titles have come on clay, including Buenos Aires in February. He is 3-4 in Monte-Carlo, reaching the third round in 2016 and 2017.
6) 500 Wins Club: Fernando Verdsaco is two wins away from becoming the sixth Spaniard in the Open Era to earn 500 career tour-level victories. Richard Gasquet is three triumphs away from becoming the first Frenchman in the Open Era to reach the milestone. Seven active players have 500 or more wins.
7) British Breakthrough: British No. 1 Kyle Edmund is set to compete in his maiden ATP World Tour final in Marrakech on Sunday (vs. Andujar). Edmund will break into the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings if he captures his first trophy.
8) Wild Cards: The wild cards in Monte-Carlo are from four different countries: #NextGenATP star Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN), Lucas Catarina (MON), Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) and Gilles Simon (FRA).
9) Strong Doubles Field: Seven of the Top 10 in the ATP Doubles Team Rankings are in the draw, led by the Top 4 of Oliver Marach/Mate Pavic, Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan, Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah and Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares.
10) Doubles Champions: Last year’s champions Rohan Bopanna and Pablo Cuevas are playing with different partners (Roger-Vasselin and Granollers, respectively). The Bryans are five-time winners (2007, 2011-12, 2014-15), while Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (2016) are the other former champions in the draw.