I can’t recall the Top 4 claycourt players having it this easy through two rounds of matches at a Masters Series event. But that’s been the case thus far at Monte Carlo this week.
King of Clay Rafael Nadal lost nine games.
Roger Federer lost just eight.
Stan Wawrinka played just one match losing only two.
And defending champion Novak Djokovic dropped a mere two in two matches.
But easy street should come end this weekend, and perhaps even on Friday when the quarterfinals get underway. Though the foursome will be favored heavily to advance to the semis.
Nadal has his sights set on a ninth Monte Carlo title, and tomorrow he’ll face longtime friend and countryman David Ferrer. The pick is easy. Nadal has won 21 of 26 meetings against the Spaniard, and that trend should continue in straight sets.
“David is a tough, tough player on any surface,” quipped Nadal after winning his 30th straight match on clay defeating Andreas Seppi. “But here on clay, it’s always a big challenge. I have played a lot of matches against him, very tough ones. If you are not at your top, top level, it is very difficult to win. I need to be ready for that.”
Seeking a first title, Federer faces the hot-and-cold JW Tsonga. The Frenchman celebrated his 29th birthday Thursday by finally breaking out of a season-long funk with a decent win today over Fabio Fognini 5-7, 6-3, 6-0. The not so fabulous Fognini was booed off the court after losing the last eight games of the match without much effort.
After a tough start to 2014, Tsonga will take it. But he’s just 4-10 against Federer and Roger wants revenge for that French loss. And thus far, Federer has looked the better of the two this week and he should beat Tsonga in straights.
“I didn’t play a very good match against him at the French last year,” said Federer after a win over Lukas Rosol. “That was a bit of a disaster for me. On the other side, I played a really good match against him in the Australian this year. So I’m kind of excited to see what’s going to happen this time around. I think Jo played the semis here last year, so he’s played here well in the past. I have to make sure I play aggressive myself and not become too passive just because we’re on clay.”
Federer’s countryman Wawrinka is also enjoying the clay and the clay is making it easy on him. The Aussie champ got a walkover today from Nicolas Almagro who’s nursing a bad foot. So with only a very strong hammering of Marin Cilic, Stan moves on to the quarters to face Milos Raonic who impressively blew out Tommy Robredo 6-4, 6-3
“Against Stan I’ve struggled in the past, but I think it’s different this time around,” Raonic said. “I feel like I’m doing a lot of things well and I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
Stan’s never lost to Raonic in two prior meetings and on the clay I have to take the Swiss in three.
In the last match of the day, Djokovic continues his torrid run at his second home – as I said he’s lost just two games in two matches! – by playing his third straight Spaniard in Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. G-Lo is having a good rebound this year and he just beat an ailing Tomas Berdych in three. But Novak’s the easy pick in this one.
“Lost only two games in the first two matches. Can’t be better than this, for sure,” said Djokovic after his 12th straight win. “I don’t want to get carried away. I am confident on the court. I’m coming off a great American hard court season. I want to keep that going.”
“Another clay court specialist, another match which I approach with an aggressive mindset in terms of game plan,” said Djokovic. “I have already great variety in the game, which is one of the key components for an optimal success on this surface. You need to be able to play equally well defensively and offensively. That’s something I was doing quite well in the first two rounds.”
If the predictions hold we will indeed get the Top 4 in the semis. That said, if there’s going to be a upset it would be either Tsonga, who could get hot, or Raonic who could blow serve Stan off the court.
Tennis Channel has the matches starting early at 4:30am ET. That’s 1:30am PT! Luckily they should have a re-air later in the day for folks like me who need their sleep!
FRIDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
 S Wawrinka (SUI) vs  M Raonic (CAN)
 R Nadal (ESP) vs  D Ferrer (ESP)
 J Tsonga (FRA) vs  [WC] R Federer (SUI)
G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) vs  N Djokovic (SRB)
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