Roger Federer and Andy Murray open their 2016 clay season Tuesday in Monte Carlo, a tournament neither has won.
Federer’s opener also marks his first match since undergoing left knee surgery shortly after returning from Australia in February.
“[Monte Carlo] is an opportunity for top guys to play more freely, since there is less pressure and it’s a change of surface for everyone,” said Federer. “I’ve played very well in Monaco in the past, but for now my objective is to make my return to play, gain a good feel and go from there.”
The 34-year-old Federer planned to return in Miami but withdrew due to gastroenteritis. Prior to his injury, Federer reached the final in Brisbane (l. to Raonic) and the semi-finals at the Australian Open (l. to Djokovic) on Jan. 28. The four-time finalist (2006-08, 2014) has a 28-12 record in Monte-Carlo. The only other tournament he has played more than without winning the title is Rome (15 times).
Federer will face Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who he has never lost to in three meetings. Though this will be their first this decade.
Former 2-time semifinalist Murray begins against Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Murray enters off a disappointing March in the U.S. where he went just 2-2 losing to Federico Delbonis at Indian Wells and Grigor Dimitrov in Miami.
“Obviously the past few weeks have been tough for me,” Murray said. “It’s very difficult to perform at the highest level every single week.”
Murray has made improvements on his least favorite surface, and last year he won Madrid.
“It wasn’t such a huge break I had away from the clay. I feel like I’ve been able to adjust a bit quicker because of that,” Murray said. “There’s no reason why I can’t have a good clay court season.”
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, David Goffin and Gilles Simon are also in action. Simon will meet Grigor Dimitrov in the Bulgarian’s opener. Simon has won four of five from Dimitrov but Grigor won most recently in January at Brisbane.
On Monday, young favorites Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Milos Raonic all advanced. Thiem lost the first set before coming back to beat qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
French favorites Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Benoit Paire, who saved a matchpoint, were also winners.
Former champions Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Stan Warwinka begin play Wednesday.
TUESDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT RAINIER III start 11:00 am
 G. Simon (FRA) vs G. Dimitrov (BUL)
[Q] P. Herbert (FRA) vs  A. Murray (GBR)
 R. Federer (SUI) vs G. Garcia-Lopez (ESP)
P. Carreno Busta (ESP) vs  J. Tsonga (FRA)
COURT DES PRINCES start 11:00 am
[Q] D. Gimeno-Traver (ESP) vs P. Cuevas (URU)
 D. Goffin (BEL) vs F. Lopez (ESP)
F. Fognini (ITA) vs P. Lorenzi (ITA)
J. Chardy (FRA) vs  R. Bautista Agut (ESP)
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