Novak Djokovic announced yesterday that because of a bad knee he was going to skip the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters event. I’m no doctor but regardless of the condition of his knee – which I suspect is nothing to be concerned about – it’s probably a wise move by the Serb given the amount of tennis he’s already played this season.
“It is a very sad moment not only for this tournament and my fans, but also for myself,” Djokovic said. “This is my favourite tournament and one of my two home events. Monte Carlo is where I spend most of my time away from the circuit and this is my club where I practice and train all year long. Unfortunately I had to take this decision to withdraw and I would like to thank Tournament Director Zeljko Franulovic for his understanding and support.”
With Djokovic’s absence we do miss out on the chance to see him and Rafael Nadal battle on the dirt. The top two in tennis who have already given us two memorable matches this season could meet in Rome or Madrid next month, though part of me wonders if either guy really wants a rematch until the French Open.
As for the European-heavy (American-less) Monte Carlo draw, Nadal is the top seed and the strong favorite. Rafa has won 32 straight matches in Monte Carlo which translates into six straight titles. And looking at his draw there’s no overwhelming reason to deny him a seventh.
Still, Nadal’s road is a little tricky with potential matchups against Richard Gasquet (who beat Federer at this tournament years ago) in the third round, Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.
In the second quarter, the slumping Andy Murray begins his clay campaign against either Radek Stepanek or Marcos Baghdatis. That could be a loss for the Scot right away. If Murray survives he’ll be tested again by either Gilles Simon or Tomas Bellucci who play in one of the better first round matches. Murray is seeded to meet my man Gael Monfils in the quarterfinals. I like Monfils, who has been recovering from bad wrist, to get out of that section, maybe beating Simon the quarterfinals.
In the third quarter, Spaniards David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco are the class. While 2010 finalist Verdasco has struggled – and could lose in the second round to countryman Tommy Robredo – I think Ferrer should emerge out to the semifinals. Alexandr Dolgopolov and Milos Raonic, who makes his red clay debut against Michael Llodra, are also in that section. Dolgo plays Ernests Gulbis in his first rounder!
In the final quadrant, Roger Federer aims for a first Monte Carlo title. The Swiss, however, will have his hands full in his opener against either Phil Kohlscreiber or Andrey Golubev. If Federer gets through – I certainly can see him losing that match – he should get out to a clash against Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals. Nikolay Davydenko is also in the section. The Russian meets Robin Haase in the opener to play Jurgen Melzer in the second round.
So my semifinals look like Nadal v. Monfils, Ferrer v. Federer. In the final I’ll take…Nadal to win, quite possibly over Ferrer!
First round play begins on Sunday with Tennis Channel picking up live coverage again (I hope) starting Monday.
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