Monte Carlo Preview: Nadal, Djokovic, Federer Fight For The First Big Clay Title Of 2014
by Sean Randall | April 12th, 2014, 9:55 am

The first major clay tennis tournament of the season kicks off tomorrow at the breathtaking Monte Carlo Masters with the Top 6 players all in attendance. But given the surface, one really doesn’t have to go that deep to find a winner. That’s because it’s essentially a two-horse race between the King of Clay Rafael Nadal and defending champion Novak Djokovic.

And looking at the draw, it’s hard to see these two not battling in the final once again a week from Sunday.

Nadal’s draw puts him in some peril right away with the steady Gilles Simon or the improving Roger-Vasselin. In the third round Italian softballer Andreas Seppi could await, then in the quarters I think it will be David Ferrer who’ll outduel youngster Grigor Dimitrov. Not easy but not terribly difficult either for Rafa. Unless Grigor really catches fire or Simon plays 3-4 levels above his game, Nadal should get through to the semis without the loss of a set. Recall during his title run at Rio Nadal maybe wasn’t at his best on the clay, but perhaps that back had something to do with it.

After a post-Australian slump, Stan Wawrinka should feel more comfortable on his favorite surface. Stan, however, will be tested early by Marin Cilic then maybe Dominic Thiem who I think beats Houston semifinalist Nicolas Almagro. In the quarters, I like Stan to win a nervy affair with Milos Raonic to set up a rematch with Rafa. Though I really wonder if Stan makes it. Cilic could certainly upset him in the first match as could Raonic or possibly Tommy Robredo who would play the Canadian in the third round. So of the four quarters, this one is by far the most wide open but Stan really needs to play well here and get back on track.

Few players have been as much of a disappointment this year than JW Tsonga – it seems so long ago that he beat Roger Federer at the French last year. And in saying that, I don’t expect much from the Frenchman this week in Monte. So in the third quarter the clear favorite is Federer. The Swiss, who took a late wildcard to gain entry into this tournament he has never won, has a dicey draw with either Stepanek/Karlovic to start, then the unpredictable Jerzy Janowicz followed by Fabio Fognini the quarters. For me, Roger could lose any of those matches but I think he’ll ride his early season confidence and momentum to semis. If Federer stumbles, I think Fognini is the guy next in line.

In the last quarter, Djokovic opens his title defense against the flashy Benoit Paire who is just back from injury. Then a tricky third rounder with Kevin Anderson before the big clash with Tomas Berdych. Boris is back (uh oh!) but off his positive play from IW/Miami I think Novak will put together enough good tennis to beat Berdych to make the semifinals. And well worth noting in that quarter is a very tasty first rounder between Gulbis and Dolgopolov!

If it sounds too easy, too obvious to have the top four seeds reach the semifinals then it probably is. The question becomes, who’ll take the hit? More than likely it will be Stan and then maybe Federer. I still think we’ll see some bad patches from Djokovic here and there, but the clay will make it that much tougher for fast-court players like Anderson and Berdych to pull the upset. And the 8-time champ Nadal just isn’t going to lose early. In fact I don’t think he’ll lose at all.

In my final right now I have Djokovic and Rafa and the choice is clear, it’s Rafa.

Welcome to the clay.

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73 Comments for Monte Carlo Preview: Nadal, Djokovic, Federer Fight For The First Big Clay Title Of 2014

Giles Says:

Vamos Rafa!
Welcome to your favourite part of the season and mine!

Josh Says:

Can’t wait for this to start – going without watching tennis for more than a week or two is almost unbearable!

Gordon Says:

With Isner, Murray and DelPotro out of the draw, and then Gasquet withdrawing due to injury Raonic is probably a little shocked to see himself seeded 8th. Tsonga, currently 12th in world also finds himself with a bye.

So 6 of the world’s top 24 are – for one reason or another – missing this tournament. 4 of them are ranked 7, 8, 9 and 10, hence the seeding upgrades for Raonic and Tsonga.

Good write up Sean. It does look cut and dried, but there are always surprises, though we may not see any here.

I agree if one of the top 4 should falter it may be Stan, who did not look great in the DC match last week, although he did comeback to win his second rubber.

It will be interesting to see how Federer quickly Federer gets his larger racquet face used to the clay. He may make it to the semis in which case Nole is going to have to be prepared for back to back gruelling matches (Fed and Rafa) if he hopes to defend his title.

You have to go with Nadal though. He is doubly motivated; he wants this title back and he wants to show Djokovic he can still beat him.

Is it next Sunday yet?

nadalista Says:

Sun, red clay, yellow balls, good wine……..and Rafael Nadal. Aahh, bliss!

Josh Says:

Don’t really fancy wine, but the rest of that list sounds great!

Giles Says:

Red wine? Yum!

van orten Says:

stay healthy pathetic

nadalista Says:

Hahaha! Now I know why you and I are kindred spirits @Giles!


nadalista Says:

It’s a pity Fed’s Roger-x blog followers are so blinded by their resentment against Fed’s conqueror that they resent red clay, the said conqueror’s best surface.

Red Clay is Fed’s beloved surface, in his own words:

Okiegal Says:

Omission like musk

Okiegal Says:

Okies like homemade muscadine wine along with tennis on clay featuring the number one Spanish player of the world!! LOL

Vamos Rafa!!

Okiegal Says:

Post at 4:12…….ignore……sent in error…post @4:18 the correct one. It’s been a long day! Lol

Okiegal Says:

Lots of injuries……not good, sad really. I hope all the injured players get well soon! Here’s hoping the players that are healthy stay that way!!

Giles Says:

Sam Querry just retired with injury giving Almagro a free pass to the final in Houston.

Peter Says:

I’m glad to see Fed playing Monte Carlo this year. I hope Nadal wins it beating Djokovic in the process. would set an interesting stage for Rome Madrid and RG! It would be sweet to see Fed win it but I’m not holding my breath for that

Kate Madison Says:

I wish I could believe that Rafa is a shoo-in! However, he has had so many injuries in the past few years–and now his back–that I worry he could be knocked out of Monte Carlo by one of the “not-so-greats,” who has what Roger Federer calls a “crazy day!”

Here is hoping this does not happen. Vamos Rafa!

A Tango Lad Says:

I agree!

Nadal as eight time champion may be the favourite but the winner is unclear with Djokovic as defending champion and always playing Nadal close.

The Swiss duo might have something to say about it too!

Hopp Suisse!

Rafa better than roger Says:

Wow, the Spanish Armada just blew the clay competition in 2 tournaments. All finalists are spaniards although hoping Verdasco and Marcel wins.

Is this the first time all finalists are from one country? Makes USA tennis look even worse. It is probably because of instead of developing US tennis, there is more roger fawning when simply the GCCOAT Nadal is bamboozling roger 23-10!

Rafa better than roger Says:

This is a common refrain for Roger. Up and down then down more. Good davis cup simply because roger knows Rafa and djok are not playing, then tried to sound positive liking clay and boom – in djok’s corner.

So how about wishing 5-setters as well? Lol.

All those big hitters will falter. Roger and Stan will most likely be eliminated early. Then, could it also be another Spanish final in Monte Carlo?

Rafa better than roger Says:

Hey, how about US no . 1 Isner?

I still remember his first round with Nadal at the French Open. Wasnt that incredible? Who plays a 5-setter like that in clay?

contador Says:

Let’s see, do these names strike fear into the heart of Rafa Nadal on his best surface and one of his most trusted venues:

Gilles Simon, Roger-Vasselin, Andreas Seppi, David Ferrer, Grigor Dimitrov???

Maybe a case could be made for one of the above getting a set, but I would not bet on it; odds are against it at MC.

It’s tougher predicting a winner in Stan Wawrinka’s quarter. I like this quarter for watching tennis. We don’t know how Stan is going to be – it really (shouldn’t) get worse than what we saw from him in Geneva, can it? Anyway, who would bet on Stan right now? Someone with more money to gamble with than me, for sure.

My pick might be Nico Almagro or Tommy Robredo there. An on fire Cilic, Raonic, or Dominic Thiem? This is the toughest draw for guessing a winner. Well, Unless Stan has flipped some switch to make himself play like it is AO 2014.

Have to agree with Sean Randall about Federer’s quarter. Fognini has the tennis to beat Feddy but will Fabio be in the mood, the right frame of mind? pffft….unlikely. The pick is Federer.

Agree with Sean about Nole too. The defending MC champ should get through any of those names in his draw but some tennis matches in that draw, like Gulbis vs Pogoserve, sound like fun watching.

Nole vs Rafa final is my pick. Nole defends Monte Carlo. Ajde Nole!

Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro – you are missed! ATP draw needs you guys!

contador Says:

Monte Carlo would be right there on top of my wish with Paris, London, Melbourne and Rome as tournaments on my bucket list go.

Although I would settle for a smaller grass tourney in the UK or Germany – that would be cool :D

Congrats to Alberto Contador for winning the lovely Tour of the Basque Country. For anyone wondering, Contador is on form. Vamos Berto!

Hamza Says:

Hoping for Nole’s Boris jinx to continue :). The man’s been on a tear off-late. Rafa will appreciate Becker’s presence I guess.

Skeezer Says:

Rafanatics puffing ther small chests now cause its Clay / Dirt / Mud season, LMAO. Keep it comin, it only lasts 1-2 months IF Rafa can mantain it all. Then, the REAL season begins! Lol….


Ben Pronin Says:

I don’t get the complaint about wondering if Nadal will ever falter. That’s literally the biggest question every clay season and it’s a testament to how great Nadal has been for the past decade. It’s not a knock on him at all. “Who will beat Nadal?” “Will Nadal be able to maintain his stranglehold?” I mean these question arise because he has been so incredible on the surface. Everything else is like a spin-off. “Will Djokovic complete his career slam?” “Will Federer make any noise?” Yeah it’s something to think about, but the real story on clay will be Nadal probably until the day he retires. Will Nadal even get to 30 losses on clay before he retires??

Okiegal Says:


How do you know all Rafanatics have small
chests?? LOL

skeezer Says:

It’s easy to calculate there posts and there validity. No worries for u, you’re not in the category. Enjoy your Rafaness season.


Maestro Fed Says:


Okiegal Says:


Okay, thanks…..glad I’m in another category of Rafa fans! I’m looking forward to clay season, my favorite surface!!


Sirius Says:


do u really feel clay sucks?

subrata Bangladesh Says:

D’jokovitch will be the winner and last year somehow Nadal defeated D’joko in spite of advance score.

Hippy Chic Says:

Its only natural i suppose like Ben says, Rafas achieved so much on clay, that one day his run will come to an end sooner or later,will it be this year who knows?but i certainly dont regard this part of the season as Rafas personal property,personally i enjoy the clay as much as i do all the surfaces as they are all part of the tennis calendar,and i dont believe should he fail to win the FO this year,that its all of a sudden detrimental to his career or he will go into some automatic decline because of it?he has actually won five GS off clay and thats usually good enough for most players,yet Rafas regarded as a failure by most posters on this forum because of it?still it is what it is i suppose,ce la vie….

Hippy Chic Says:

Skeezer/Okiegal im not one to brag about my physical attributes,but i have been told i have a pretty sizeable chest,not that im one to puff it out by any means,as i might give someone a black eye,anyway seriously clay comes and goes in the blink of an eye,maybe Rafa will dominate again who knows?but life as they say is full of surprises,and thats why we all tune in to see what happens next,only time will tell so lets just sit back and enjoy….

Okiegal Says:


You go girl…..knock um’ dead! Lol Love your humor!
I know that Rafa’s run on clay will eventually come to an end. As you have said many times, Rafa has nothing more to prove. He will go down in the annals of tennis history as being one of the best players to have ever picked up a racquet. The rivalry he’s shared with Roger and Novak have been entertaining to say the least. How long they will last, who knows?? Age is definitely not on their side at this stage of their career…….but all the predictions get pretty silly in my books…..nobody knows. So many things can happen. The injuries at this time are numerous, which is so disheartening. I would love to see all of them be at the top of their game so we can still be entertained! Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see…….Yes let’s sit back and enjoy and see how it unfolds!

Hippy Chic Says:

Okiegal thanks us Yorkshire folk always have had a warped SOH,lol i love your humour too,and i enjoyed the way you burst into song at the end of your post,anyway i will just simply enjoy seeing whatever unfolds,no trash talking or belittling other players,bring it on….

A Tango Lad Says:

Someone got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning (in his RF PJs) LOL.

Don’t fret Roger fans. Roger will surprise a logo of doubters this clay season!

Hopp Roger!

Giles Says:

Why are people speculating on Rafa’s clay prowess. Particularly “I know that Rafa’s run on clay will eventually come to an end”. FYI everything in life comes to an end sooner or later so talking about Rafa and his run on clay is neither here nor there. Just enjoy this phenomenal man while he is still playing. Look, even poor Fed’s dominance came to an end!
Vamos Rafa!
Stay healthy!

nadalista Says:

Hahaha, finally, he’s learning!

RT @carole_bouchard: “Djokovic says Roland-Garros was constantly in his mind last year, that it didn’t work well, in Madrid and Rome, and that this season he goes for a different mindset : being dedicated only to tournaments coming. Then “when the time comes” he’ll think of the French Open.”


Hippy Chic Says:

One poster boldly stated when Novak lost to Berdych at Rome nearly a year ago,that hes done enough now,hes shown Rafa enough by beating him at MC,so hes deliberatly tanked now saving himself for the FO,it wasnt worth going all out to win that particular tourney for the sake of a few measly ranking points,well all i can say is if that was the plan then it failed miserably?anyway all in the past and we are now into a new year,everybodys starting again from scratch,Rafas still the man to beat on clay,but everybodys itching to find out if this will be the year he gets knocked of his pedestal,its pretty much the norm every year on clay,nothing for people to get on their high horses about??

contador Says:

So what, Hippy Chic. I think you wont let that bone go. How many times do you need to post that story?

I am not the only one to play down a favorite loss and find a reason to hope for a win at FO. Seriously. Ajde Nole!

This is sport. Who is intentionally damning Rafa, for god sakes? To many of us, Rafa and Roger, both of them, have won enough. Rafa’s accomplishments on clay speak for themselves, already. Not everyone is ready or willing to fawn all over them or jump for joy when they win a new title. Yes, there are many of us that hope Djokovic wins or Murray wins and prefer watching them now and others lift the trophies. Geez, must you take it as a personal affront and whine about it when posters support players than Rafa this clay season or the last clay season, ect, ect…

Yes many of us would like to some successful competition for, opps, your favorite during clay season, especially. It is normal in sport.

Hippy Chic Says:

Contador I wasnt aware that i had posted that story before,and if i have i dont remember,and i cetainly wasnt refering to you anyway,why are you getting your knickers in a twist?certainly competition is what people find exciting in sport,and as you will see from the posts i have been saying for months that i wouldnt be at all surprised should someone other than Rafa clean up on clay this season Novak or whomever read the above,my above post was merely stating that people are too quick to make predictions also stating them as bona fide facts then disapear when all goes pear shaped,not getting into a slanging match with you,but my god did you get out of bed on the wrong side this morning??

Hippy Chic Says:

For what its worth i would like to see an open and well contested year,not a 2010,2011,but a year where things are shared out,to be honest i would like Andy to do well on clay although not too hopefull on that one,and would love him to retain Wimbledon,im loving Nishikori whos one of my new favorites,and i believe hes future GS champion meterial,but someone new making a breakthrough would be amazing ala Stan….

contador Says:

The last time you told that story I think it was just prior to Indian Wells, Hippy Chic. And at that time you complained that “a female poster….” same story. At least twice.

Was not sure if you were talking about me but pretty sure those were my sentiments about Nole – play down his loss and say it will be okay – he’ll win FO. Pretty certain in fact that I posted something like that but not going back to search it.

And so what if posters make predictions? you don’t like it when they do but there is no law against making predictions. I like to make picks and predictions. So you can just chill out about that, lol…

I have been up since 2 am arguing with disgruntled cycling fans upset over Contador winning another title :D

Steve 27 Says:

The triple 9: Montecarlo, Barcelona, and Roland Garros. Rafa will be the only one in history to win the same tournament 9 times!, but at the same time, the only one to do it in three differents tournaments this season

Hippy Chic Says:

^Just interested but will you get bored eventually if Novak were to dominate everything,and were you glad to see someone other than Novak not winning the AO,given how dominant hes been there,fans dont usually care when their favorites dominate,but its fine and not a slant if you do??^

Hippy Chic Says:

^Post for Contador.^

Hippy Chic Says:

Contador so what if people make predictions?exactly,but why P*SS on ther peoples predictions and state them as bona fide facts rather than just predictions,anyway as i say not referring to you anyway,Novak winning the FO maybe you will get your wish time will tell?not into cycling im afraid but congrats to your man anyway,TBH my mind was on Liverpool FC beating Manchester City 3-2 yipee,hopefully they will go on to win the English Premier league….

contador Says:

It is your right to complain about posters posting their predictions. That is your opinion. But I might say something like, oh no not that whining again, and you can comeback with – you are on a high horse to make such a bold prediction.

Why predict. It’s fun. I remember Grendel thought it was pointless. Personally I really miss the fun of the brackets. I see yours and Grendels point. But be advised, I already picked Nole to win MC and I stand by my pick.

Yes, no doubt I will get tired of Nole if he goes on to win titles year after year, and dominate tennis in a ludicrous way like Rafa and Roger have. I happen to think Nole belongs up there with Fedal. But Nole is so well-balanced and versatile as a tennis player, imo, that I can’t help but support him in his prime to win FO. Would like to see him have the Career Slam. And another Wimbles and FO. That is all. So says me.

Humble Rafa Says:

It is my pleasure to welcome you the clay court season.

Hopefully, one day, it will be called what it should be called: The Humble Season.

criss Says:

only an ijury can stop the doper duo to ruin the tennis totally and permanently.

Hippy Chic Says:

Nole does already belong with Fedal IMO,and he is a versatile player,the thing i get tired of hearing is how one dimensional Rafa is even though he has won five GS off clay,usually thats considered good enough for any player,and probably the reason why i derive more pleasure from his HC title wins,rather than his CC wins,and he also gets crucified for never having won a WTF?you never here Novak crucified for been one dimensional and so you shouldnt,but to me Rafa shouldnt be either,and it all seems rather unfair IMO….

Hippy Chic Says:

I wouldnt mind Rafa winning another Wimbledon,USO,AO to complete a second career GS,although im not greedy,and already delighted with all his achievements,that is all,so says me….

A Tango Lad Says:

Quite frankly, it is those fanatics that choose to criticize and nit pick Nadal only because of his dominance over Roger that are being one dimensional.

If he had a losing record against Roger, you wouldn’t see near the criticism.

It would be the same for Djokovic if he had such a dominant record over The Maestro.

It is ironic when they claim that the Vamos head Rafanatics only think about head to head when it is themselves who are all consumed by it.

skeezer Says:

sour grapes

A Tango Lad Says:

Perfect timing like clockwork!

Case in point LOL.

skeezer Says:

You’re too easy.

A Tango Lad Says:

Trolling again @skeezer?

amadeus Says:

whatever….I hate slow courts.

Margot Says:

And I certainly would like Andy to win RG, defend Wimbledon, retrieve UsOpen, grab AO and stick around for a 2nd Olympic Gold.
So there….;)

Nirmal Kumar Says:

For me Rafa’s been branded more a clay court specialist due to his own admissions. We always see him wanting more Clay court and pretty much makes statements against HC. Also he plays down his chances consistently in HC’s. Anyone reading his interviews during HC season would believe that he is a clay court specialist, though on Court he is a great in all the 3 surfaces.

Rafa needs to change his tune about HC’s in his interviews. It will change people’s opinion also.

nadalista Says:

“It will change people’s opinion also.”

You mean, Fedfans’ opinion? I don’t think Rafa has to contort himself to try to change that. Never going to change, short of him renouncing ALL his clay titles!

Hippy Chic Says:

Nirmal Kurmar thanks for that post,its really a tonic to here people say that about Rafa,hes actually been in multiple finals at all the GS now,and has multiple GS on all surfaces,5 GS off clay,and probably the sole reason as i say that i actually derive more pleasure from his HC GS and other titles,than i do from the clay ones….

Hippy Chic Says:

Margot yeah me too ;))..

Klaas Says:

Cannot understand some posters diminishing of the claycourt season. One of the great things in tennis is the variety of surfaces, which bring different skills and tactics in play, on clay fx dropshot and dropvolley. The different surfaces bring variety into the game, so we get to enjoy the whole spectrum of the game, and not just the big serve/forehand bangers, or the endless slug fests a la Aussie final Djoker-Rafa on HC.

A Tango Lad Says:

With respect Klaas, it’s quite easy to understand.

It has less to do with the surface itself and more to do with the unadmitted hate towards the King of Clay who has denied Roger from being the undeniable GOAT.

Roger has achieved so much and his legacy holds up to anyone but some are never satisfied sadly.

contador Says:

Cheer up ATL –

I understand your complaint and maybe you can start a Fedal battle here today by invoking the GOAT debate. It is a possibility.

But there is tennis to watch, postpone grinding that axe. Clay season is underway in glorious Monte Carlo.

Read more Nadalista – she is a happy Rafa fan.

Ben Pronin Says:

ATL, do you remember who was winning the French before Nadal?

The reality is that clay was often overlooked because there were a number of clay court specialists who played and won all of the clay court events then did nothing for the rest of the year. It was a handful of no-names for the most part. Outside of Kuerten’s run and Agassi’s big win, it was seen as the inferior surface.

As much as people might hate on clay because Federer loses to Nadal there a lot, the surface has gained a lot of relevance over the last decade due to Nadal’s run and Federer’s constant attempts at the career slam. Nadal is an all time great who dominates the surface. For half a decade, the French Open was the holy grail for Federer. Now it’s the biggest even Djokovic has yet to win. Players look forward to the event more than ever and so do that fans. The whole “people don’t like clay because of Roger” thing is just silly. At least they feel something about the clay instead of ignoring it all together like they used to.

Translated Age Says:

It was only ever “ignored” in North America (ad that really hasn’t changed regardless of Nadal and Federer. No where else.

Sean Randall Says:

A Tango Lad, funny how you wrote:
“Trolling again @skeezer?”

When I wrote the same thing directed at “Translated Age” on another thread.

Nah, you two can’t be the same! Must be coincidence.

nadalista Says:

Sean Randall, whatever your beef with @A Tango Lad is, take it outside. You look like you’re stalking him, not cool.

contador Says:

I guess there is no use hanging around on my day off waiting to see if ATL starts a conversation with Translated Age or Sean declares them two different posters or a couple a sock puppets.

Stay tuned.

Polo Says:

With Boris back, the chance of Dokovic winning this tournament has just significantly dropped.

contador Says:

Cue the track from the matrix, clubbed to death. Polo has exposed the elephant in the room.

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