Monte Carlo’s on its way!

The Monte Carlo Masters will begin this Saturday. It’s the first clay tournament for most players as it annually marks the opening of the clay season therefore it can often be considered one of the hardest events for some players due to the immediate transition from hard court to clay. Also, it’s the first of a trio of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments played on the clay surface. The 107-years old event is held in Monaco, in the South East area of France. I is a very important tournament to some competitors, as due to their rather large bank balances, many current and retired tennis players choose to make the tax-haven of Monte Carlo their home.

What’s the wage?

The champion will bag a whopping €2,646,495 or £2,254,020.

What happened last time?

In 2012 Novak Djokovic met Rafael Nadal in the final, in the end it was a straight sets win for Rafa; 6-3 6-1.

Who’s the most successful?

Rafael Nadal has won the past 8 titles, demonstrating exactly why he gets his title the ‘King of Clay’. Consequently the Spaniard is the only player in the open era to win 8 consecutive titles at the same tournament, an incredible record. The Mallorca left-hander was just 18-years old when he won his first Monte Carlo title back in 2005.

Who’s taking part this year?

56 players will compete in the singles event. The tournament isn’t mandatory therefore Roger Federer will set it out as part of his reduced schedule and make his clay court return at the Madrid Open. 8 of the top 10 players are taking part, with Juan Martin del Potro has changing his mind about his participation. The former-US Open champion originally wished to skip Monte Carlo to rest his wrist but in a surprising U-turn he applied for a wild card, which was accepted by officials – meaning he’ll be one of the top contenders, after already beating the top 2 Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray earlier this year.

David Ferrer competing in the 2012 tournament.

David Ferrer competing in the 2012 tournament.

However, David Ferrerhas recently he will not be competing due to a potentially serious thigh injury. He acquired the injury during the final of the Miami Masters in which he fought a four set battle with Andy Murray which ended with the Brit win. Ferrer’s difficulties were evident in the final tie-break of the match, with several episodes of stumbling and limping – leading to him losing it 7-1 and Murray ‘stealing’ the match. In a statement on Facebook the world no.4 said “Unfortunately I can not be in Monte Carlo for physical problems. I hope to be fit to play the Conde Godo.” By Conde Godo he is referring to the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell – the Masters 500 tournament begins on April 20. Even if he was competing though, he would still be in the shadow of Nadal and last year he exited the tournament in the opening round for the second time.

Meanwhile world number 1 Novak Djokovic is also a serious injury doubt after injuring his ankle in the Davis Cup (CLICK HERE for the full story on that). A statement was posted on the Serb’s official website reads: “The world’s top player has undergone an MRI examination this morning which revealed no structural damage to the joint capsule and ligaments. A joint structures strain requires therapy and strict rest in the following days. Depending on the recovery, a decision will be made on Nole’s participation at the upcoming tournament in Monte Carlo.” Nole also posted a photo on Twitter (see below).

What are Andy Murray’s chances?

Last year Murray could only make the quarter-finals, where he lost out to Tomas Berdych after receiving a bye from the fourth round due to Julien Benneteau’s injury. The semi-finals are the furthest Andy’s managed to reach in Monte Carlo, which he’s achieved twice; 2009 and 2011. Luckily his coach, Ivan Lendl, knows all about winning the competition having done so in 1985 and 1988.

We know that clay isn’t the US Open champion’s favoured surface but with Roger Federer, David Ferrer and possibly Novak Djokovic not competing it opens up more cause for hope. There are plenty of players who thrive on this surface that Murray must be weary of and he’ll probably have to come past Nadal to win – never an easy challenge on clay, or any other surface for the Scot, as Nadal leads the head-to-head 13-5, and 4-0 on clay alone. The last two matches – Miami 2012 and Tokyo 2011 – were won by Murray but Nadal seems a different player on hard and clay courts so they don’t really matter. If the 2nd and 3rd seeds were to meet (it would probably be in the final) then it could play out similarly to their 2011 Roland Garros semi-final (the last time they played on clay) a match which the Spaniard went on to win. The highlight from that match are below:

Doubles?

In recent times American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan have dominated the tournament, winning the two most recent years, and also in 2007.

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