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Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters 2019 draw preview and predictions: Nadal, Nishikori could be set for semifinal rematch of last year’s final

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 12 Apr 2019
  • Draw analysis & predictions for the 2019 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
  • Rafael Nadal in same half as Kei Nishikori, Alexander Zverev
  • The Monte-Carlo Rolex Masteris live from 14-21 April 2019
Rafael Nadal bids for an incredible twelfth Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title in 2019 (PA Sport)

Eleven-time champion Rafael Nadal doesn’t need any favours from the draw for the 2019 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters – but he has got them anyway. 

Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori could be set for a semifinal rematch of last year’s final at the 2019 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, with Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem in the top half of the draw.

We break down the draw and predict the semifinalists.

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic (1) vs Stefanos Tsitsipas (6) (0-1)
Novak Djokovic
Djokovic suffered disappointing early defeats at the Indian Wells and Miami Masters when he came in as the favourite, but can he put all that behind him as his quest for a second French Open title begins in earnest at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters?

Defeated by Thiem in the round of 16 at last year’s tournament, Djokovic could be set for a semifinal rematch with the Austrian. But first he could be in for another rematch – this time with Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat him in Indian Wells.

Djokovic is still 8-2 vs Kohlschreiber and shouldn’t have anything to fear from the German veteran, but there a few projected third-round opponents who could test him: Kyle Edmund, who beat him in Madrid last year; Diego Schwartzman, the only player to take a set from Nadal on the latter’s way to the French Open title in 2018, who could well upset Edmund in the first round; and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, currently ranked outside the top 100 but very much on his way back, who is into the semifinals in Marrakech this week and faces Taylor Fritz in the first round.

It will be interesting to see what Australian Open semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas can produce on clay – last year’s Barcelona Open finalist looks set for a third-round clash with rising Russian Daniil Medvedev, with hard-hitting Jeremy Chardy (now coached by Cedric Pioline) the only player who looks able to upset that clash. You’d back Djokovic to beat any and all of those players, but not without having to work pretty hard – no early-round cruise for the top seed this week.

Semifinalist: Djokovic

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Dominic Thiem (4) vs Karen Khachanov (8) (0-1)
Karen Khachanov (PA Sport)
Having proved he’s a contender to win the biggest titles with his Indian Wells triumph over Roger Federer, Thiem will have to shoulder a heavy burden of expectation as the 2018 French Open finalist begins his 2019 European clay-court campaign.

Thiem has actually had poor results on clay so far in 2019, recording an unimpressive Golden Swing, and is only 5-5 at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, although one of those five wins did come over Djokovic in 2018 before he was beaten by Nadal in the quarterfinals.

With Martin Klizan a probable second-round opponent and David Goffin, who beat him at this same tournament in 2017 but is not on the same kind of form, in the third, Thiem should be a lock for the quarterfinals. He’s projected to face Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov, who’s a great clay-courter and beat Thiem in the Paris semifinals. Khachanov has been in woeful form recently, due to illness and also to a change of racquet; with the former cured and the latter reversed, can he make it past a potential shotmaking duel with Nikoloz Basilashvili and into what should be an intriguing clash with Thiem?

Semifinalist: Khachanov

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Kei Nishikori (5) vs Alexander Zverev (3) (1-2)
Borna Coric (PA Sport)
Kei Nishikori kickstarted his comeback to the top after a wrist injury with a run to the final of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2018, but he hasn’t got a Masters 1000 Series title to his name unlike three-time winner Zverev – who will come out of this quarter?

It hasn’t been a great year so far for ATP Finals champion Zverev. Illness could be blamed for early exits from Indian Wells and Miami but not really for a second-round defeat to Jaume Munar after taking a wildcard into Marrakech, and things could get tough quickly with Miami semifinalist Felix Auger-Aliassime a potential second-round opponent and mercurial Fabio Fognini in the third.

Nishikori doesn’t have an easy time of it either, with Fernando Verdasco – always dangerous – and big-serving Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the second round and ninth seed Borna Coric, Coric’s first-round opponent Hubert Hurkacz, or perhaps Munar who just got his first top-10 win in Marrakech in the third. If Coric can get past the powerful Hurkacz, who made quite an impression at Indian Wells and is rapidly climbing the ranks, I like him to make the semifinals.

Semifinalist: Coric

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Marin Cilic (7) vs Rafael Nadal (2) (2-6)
Marin Cilic (PA Sport)
Are we really considering anything other than the question of who’s going to finish runner-up to 11-time champion Rafael Nadal, though?

Nadal’s quest for a twelfth French Open title starts here and I really can’t envision anyone stopping him before the final – if then. The much-improved Roberto Bautista Agut is an interesting probable second-round opponent, but Denis Shapovalov or perhaps Grigor Dimitrov would be crushed in the third.

There’s opportunity for a surprise quarterfinalist in this section, with Cilic struggling with a knee injury and only having won one of his last four matches. Last year’s surprise French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato is the seed, but he’s up against Damir Dzumhur in the first round and the winner of a must-watch first-round clash between Australian Open semifinalist Lucas Pouille (who hasn’t won a match since Melbourne) and the always unpredictable but potentially magnificent Stan Wawrinka. The winner of that one should face Nadal in the quarterfinals but they’re not going to stop him.

Semifinalist: Nadal

Semifinals: Djokovic d. Khachanov
Nadal d. Coric

Final: Djokovic d. Nadal

Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tennis is live from 14-21 April 2019

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Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters 2019 draw preview and predictions: Nadal, Nishikori could be set for semifinal rematch of last year’s final

Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters 2019 draw preview, predictions and tips: Eleven-time champion Rafael Nadal handed smooth route through the draw while Novak Djokovic could be set for early clashes with Philipp Kohlschreiber, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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