Monte Carlo Preview: Murray, Djokovic Return To Battle; Nadal Seeks 10th Title
by Sean Randall | April 14th, 2017, 2:29 pm

The clay season beings in earnest on Sunday on the shores of the Medditerean in Monte Carlo. Race No. 1 Roger Federer won’t be there but after missing Miami, the top two in the world — according to rankings — will be. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are back along with Stan Wawrinka as the trio try to thwart Rafael Nadal’s bid to defend his title and win a 10th Monte Carlo crown.

Looking for some outsiders? There’s Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and perhaps Pablo Carreno Busta. Otherwise, an all-Top 4 seeded final is the clear bet here.

So to the draw.

Andy Murray Quarter
Murray’s back however how well he is physically following an elbow injury remains to be seen. Murray made the semifinals in Monte Carlo last year losing to Rafa and two other times, but overall hasn’t played that well. It’s arguably his worst Masters event on the calendar. So that and the unknown of his injury gives me some pause. But his draw doesn’t. Gilles Muller or Tommy Robredo to start, then potentially Ramos-Vinolas followed by either Tomas Berdych or Marin Cilic is real nice road and it should allow him to work out the kinks and get his serve going, assuming he’s healthy! If not, maybe Berdych gets through?
The Pick: Andy Murray

Stan Wawrinka Quarter
Stan won this title back in 2014 — to this day still his lone Masters win. And I think he’ll do well again this year because, like Murray, he also has a great draw. There’s the serve-and-volley Zverev or Jiri Vesely, who can be tough (just ask Novak), followed by Pablo Cuevas, and then a Frenchmen in either Lucas Pouille or JW Tsonga who maybe isn’t tournament tough after having his first child. So unless Tsonga or Pouille get hot, I like Stan.
The Pick: Stan Wawrinka

Rafael Nadal Quarter
OK, the top half looks pretty boring, but now the fun begins. Yes, Rafa is the favorite and yes, I’m going to pick him to win the title, but I think it’s going to be tough. If the draw holds, he’ll have to beat Zverev and then Dimitrov to get to the semifinals. Both should be stern tests as they each were in Australia. And there are a couple of other youngsters in there as well with Daniil Medvedev and Casper Ruud. Both could be Masters champions someday. But for now, Rafa played well on the hardcourt so I don’t expect any letdown on the clay. Maybe he drops a set here or there, struggles to close out a match, but it’s clay…
The Pick: Rafael Nadal

Novak Djokovic Quarter
Is Novak Djokovic the most intriguing player in this draw? You could make the case! A year ago he was dominating tennis. Now? No titles, no finals since Doha and no real signs of a return to the glory days. He missed Miami with an elbow, came back for Davis Cup where he survived an early first set scare from Medvedev. Says he’s refreshed, but do you believe him? So it’s just a guess as to what level Djokovic is at. He is a 2-time Monte Carlo champion and I don’t expect a repeat of the shocker last year to Vesely. But he could face Gilles Simon in his opener, followed by Carreno Busta and then potentially Thiem, unless David Goffin knocks the Austrian out. And if Thiem is playing up to par on the clay and Djokovic is still in his funk, then I think Dominic gets through. Just on form, I think I have to take the upset.
The Pick: Dominic Thiem


Wawrinka d Murray: Stan to tough for Murray who hasn’t hit his stride.
Nadal d Thiem: Rafa overwhelms the Austrian.

Nadal d Wawrinka: Rafa wins his 10th Monte Carlo and also his first title in a year.

Again, Novak is really the x-factor here. Which Djokovic shows up? And can Rafa still get the job done? He played well but came up just short on the hardcourts. Now the expectations are there and his draw could be very tough with Zverev-Dimitrov-Djokovic-Wawrinka/Murray to win the title. That’s going to take a lot of work.

Of course Rafa’s done that before, but he’s just not as good as he once was and I want to see him run that gauntlet and finally get another title. Let’s see him handle those nerves. And I know he’s won this event nine times, but only once in the last four years.

Matches begin on Sunday. Happy Easter weekend everyone!

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18 Comments for Monte Carlo Preview: Murray, Djokovic Return To Battle; Nadal Seeks 10th Title

Travis Bickle Says:

Not a single comment almost 10 hours after Sean Randal posted his preview!

Actually not surprising at all…
As a supposed tennis writer should you have at least one comment about the draw itself in a supposed draw preview??? Like saying, for example, the draw is well balanced or perhaps not…

A decent (not good, just decent) draw preview, besides meaningless prediction who would make finals and win, would contain some comments balance. For example, that the bottom half of this MC draw (Novak and Rafa) has total of 28 clay masters titles, compared to the top half (Muzza and Stan) that has only 4 clay masters titles.
In addition, all “outsiders” or dark horses that Sean Randal listed above (Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Pablo Carreno Busta) are in the bottom half.

I think it is fair to assume that Rafa and Novak half is way tougher than the other half, and that this MC draw is very unbalanced. Rather disappointing that a draw preview failed to notice and mention such an important fact. No wonder, there are no comments :-(

At least, there is one comment now…

wilfried Says:

I’m happy that Djokovic will be back on the tennis courts.
His bracket of the draw is not easy, I agree with Travis Bickle on that.
But I assume the guy with eyes like magnets must be licking his chops to prove he is still the best on the dirt.
If not at Monte CArlo, he’ll have plenty more chances to do so afterwards.

autoFilter Says:

Thanks for the insightful draw preview, Sean. You make a lot of good points taking into account not only the players’ historic performances at this tournament but also current form, recent personal events, and health questions. Also, I agree the top half looks a bit lackluster in comparison to the bottom. All in all, though, I’m definitely excited for this season’s first clay Masters.

Like most of us I’m quite curious to see how the top 2 fare in resuming ATP competition — I suspect one of the two will go the distance, but I’m most excited to see if Rafa will build on his hardcourt form and ultimately hoist the hardware.

Ross Says:

Rafa won’t win his 10th with this draw. And to be fair, he’s had some pretty easy draws up till now. It is what it is. My pick is a loss even before the semi. a pause, then veiled hints at an injury that he has been bravely playing through… Any bets on whether any umpire will call Rafa out for time wasting???

Mridul7 Says:

I have no idea which Davis Cup Match you saw of Djokovic. I saw the the one he played against Ramos Vinolas and he won that pretty easily without any hiccups and looked pretty strong.

Michael Says:

I do not agree with Sean that Novak will not make it to the semis. I am sure he would but there lies in the real test where he would probably meet Rafa. Psychologically Novak is in Rafa’s head so far but you cannot be confident any more especially the brilliant way Roger has managed to turn around an embarrassingly lop sided head to head against Rafa. Will Rafa take a leaf out of Roger ? For sure he is capable and adding to his advantage they will be resuming their rivalry in Rafa’s fiefdom. So if that scenario translates into reality it should be one helluva of a match.

Michael Says:

The favourites for me are Novak and Rafa in that order.

FedExpress Says:

Dimitrov flop

donskey backt to his choking ways.

FedExpress Says:

Gilles Simon isnt the player which Nole should fear. Way past hid best. Like Ferrer.

HJF Says:

Disagree that Novaks an automatic shoo because its clay, also Rafa and Roger have been in better form, it depends on where Novak is before we get ahead, and give him the title ….

skeezer Says:

Wawa & Djoko training @ MC 2017. Nole is now sporting the Wawa facial hair.

Humble Rafa Says:

Sometimes in life you for your 10th title. Sometimes you go to a beach. The choice we make determine who we are and how much we love the game.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Well, I was very excited for the clay season to start, even with Roger out, but the line-up for Monte Carlo is a bit disappointing with Kyrgios, Del Potro, Milos and Nishikori all out as well. For sure, and interesting battle with the top 4 seeds here, but there’s not the kind of ‘outsider’ pressure we were seeing and expecting in 2017. Maybe Zverev can bring it. I doubt very much that Thiem or Dmitrov will, but would be great for them to prove me wrong. As it is, this tournament doesn’t really start till the semis. Still… I’ll be excited to see Rafa vs Novak.

Daniel Says:

Agree TV.

Also feels the top 4 should all prevail in 3 matches for their potential semis and finals.

Don´t agree with Sen also, to me Djoko is the least to lose before semis. Clay also takes the time away from his oponents. All matches he lsot were to players spanking the ball thsi season. Hard to do it on clay.

Think he makes a statement win this tourney.

rognadfan Says:

For once, Travis Bickle showed some signs that Betsy has been able to help him reduce imsonia and sociopathy a little!

Danica Says:

I hope Nole shows up and backs up his “I feel great” comment. He can win the tournament but also fall at the first hurdle (2nd round).

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