Monte-Carlo Scouting Report: Nadal Chases 12th Title, Djokovic Is Back
One week ago in Miami, Hubert Hurkacz broke new ground for Poland by becoming the first singles player from his country to win an ATP Masters 1000 title. Now, the world's best will tackle the year's first clay-court Masters 1000 event at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
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1) Nadal’s Chase For No. 12: Nadal will attempt to secure a record-extending 12th Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters title in the Principality. The lefty owns a 71-5 record at the tournament, where he has fallen short of the quarter-finals just once, and that occasion came on his debut in 2003 as a 16-year-old (he defeated World No. 7 Albert Costa in the second round). The third seed, who fell in the 2019 semi-finals against Fabio Fognini, will begin his run this year against Adrian Mannarino or a qualifier. Sixth seed Andrey Rublev is a potential quarter-final foe.
Nadal can reclaim No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings from Daniil Medvedev if he reaches the final and the Russian does not make the semi-finals. The Spanish superstar can also achieve the feat if he lifts the trophy and Medvedev does not advance to the championship match.
2) Djokovic Is Back: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has not competed since claiming a record ninth Australian Open title in February. The Serbian, who also won both his matches at the ATP Cup, will now chase his third Monte-Carlo crown. Notably, the 33-year-old has not advanced past the quarter-finals at the Masters 1000 event since triumphing in 2015. The top seed will need to be sharp immediately, since he will play red-hot #NextGenATP star Jannik Sinner or 2017 Monte-Carlo finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first round. Nadal and Medvedev are in the opposite half of the draw.
3) Medvedev’s Memories: Many fans might know that Medvedev is a three-time Masters 1000 titlist. But what they might not realise is that the Russian star made his first semi-final at this level in Monte-Carlo in 2019. That year, Medvedev defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas and Djokovic en route to the last four. The second seed will try to go even further this edition, which will mark his fourth main draw appearance in the tournament. Medvedev will play Filip Krajinovic or recent Doha champion Nikoloz Basilashvili in his opener, with defending champion Fabio Fognini lurking as a potential third-round opponent.
4) Rublev On A Roll: Nobody has more wins on the ATP Tour this season than Andrey Rublev (20-4) and he will try to maintain his momentum in the Principality. The Russian is only 1-3 at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Those losses came against Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Fognini, who went on to win the title that year. Rublev will be confident after reaching his first Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami, and he will begin his campaign against Monagesque wild card Lucas Catarina or a qualifier.
5) Karatsev’s Debut: Russian sensation Aslan Karatsev has been the breakthrough star of the tennis world in 2021 thanks to his shock run to the Australian Open semi-finals and his victory in Dubai. The 27-year-old will break new ground in Monte-Carlo, where he will not just compete in his first Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, but his first tour-level main draw on clay. Karatsev has only played ATP Tour qualifying on clay once, and that was in Kitzbuhel in 2014. The Russian will have his hands full in his opener against Italian teen Lorenzo Musetti.
6) Sinner Shining: Jannik Sinner made a dream run to the Miami Open presented by Itau final, where he fell one victory short of becoming the youngest champion in tournament history. The 19-year-old will try to continue his impressive play in Monte-Carlo, where he will play former finalist Ramos-Vinolas in the first round. If the #NextGenATP star wins, he will face World No. 1 Djokovic for the first time. They are familiar with each other, having trained together. Sinner's coach, Riccardo Piatti, has also worked with Djokovic.
7) Fabio Former Champ: Fognini will happily return to the Monte-Carlo Country Club, the site of his greatest victory two years ago. He stunned two of the top three players in the FedEx ATP Rankings — Nadal and Zverev — en route to becoming the first Italian Masters 1000 champion in series history. Fognini will attempt to successfully defend his trophy, beginning with a clash against Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, who has recently brought David Nalbandian onto his team. Fognini could play second seed Medvedev in the third round.
8) #NextGenATP Wild Cards: Two of the tournament’s four wild cards were given to #NextGenATP stars: Musetti and Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune. Musetti recently became the youngest player in the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, and he appears to only be getting better. The 19-year-old Italian reached his first ATP 500 semi-final in Acapulco and made the third round in Miami. He will try to slow down scorching-hot Russian Karatsev in the first round. Junior World No. 1 Rune of Denmark, who is 17, made the Santiago quarter-finals as a qualifier earlier this year, and he will make his Masters 1000 debut against fellow Scandinavian Casper Ruud of Norway. Rune recently spent a week training with Djokovic in Monaco.
9) Will Mektic/Pavic Stay Hot? Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are the second seeds at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, but they will be the favourites at the first clay-court Masters 1000 event of the season. The Croatians have already won four titles in 2021, including an impressive victory in Miami. Mektic triumphed in the Principality in 2019 alongside another Croatian, Franko Skugor. The top seeds in Monaco will be Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, with Australian Open champions Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek among the teams to watch. Seventh seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut were victorious here in 2016.
10) Singles Stars Playing Doubles: Will a singles star be able to make a deep run in the doubles draw? World No. 2 Medvedev will compete alongside Brazilian Marcelo Demoliner and Stefanos Tsitsipas will play with brother Petros Tsitsipas. Singles teams that could be threats include reigning Rolex Paris Masters champions Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz as well as Karen Khachanov and Rublev, who have made two Masters 1000 doubles finals together. Grigor Dimitrov will team with David Goffin and Fognini will play with Diego Schwartzman.