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Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters 2017 draw preview and matches to watch: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal could meet in Monte Carlo semifinals

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 15 Apr 2017
  • Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka head the draw at the 2017 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
  • Draw preview and predictions with Djokovic and Nadal likely to meet in the semifinals and Murray struggling for form
  • Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tennis is live from Monte Carlo from 16-23 April 2017
Rafael Nadal returns to defend his Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title in 2017 and could meet Novak Djokovic in the semifinals (VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic lead the field at the 2017 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters: We break down the draw. 

The first big event of the 2017 clay-court season begins on Sunday 16 April as the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters welcomes the world’s top players once again. World no. 1 Andy Murray returns to action for the first time since the right elbow injury which took him out of the Miami Masters, while Novak Djokovic – champion in Monte Carlo in 2013 and 2015 – hopes to find form on clay ahead of his French Open title defense and nine-time Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters champion Rafael Nadal goes for an amazing tenth title, which could prefigure a similar decade at Roland Garros.

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Andy Murray (1) vs Marin Cilic (5) (12-4)
Part of Andy Murray’s sensational 2016 season and rise to world no. 1 was demonstrating incontrovertibly that he was as much of a threat on clay as on any other surface, with his Rome Masters title, Madrid Masters runner-up finish and run to the Roland Garros final. Now Murray is looking for his first real success of what has been a disappointing season so far as he returns to action after his right elbow injury.

Murray has made the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters semifinals three times but his draw is packed with danger, even if his elbow does hold up (it’s his serve that’s likely to be most affected if the injury is ongoing). Murray could face Tommy Robredo, who beat Grigor Dimitrov in Marrakech last week and who has played some extremely memorable matches against Murray in the past, or big-serving Sydney champion Gilles Muller when he opens his Monte-Carlo Masters campaign. Albert Ramos-Vinolas is his projected third-round opponent, but Philipp Kohlschreiber – who has pushed Murray incredibly hard on clay in the past, including to 12-10 in the fifth at the French Open in 2014, and beaten him soundly in Monte Carlo back in 2010 – is another possible opponent.

Fifth seed Marin Cilic has done little of note recently and ninth seed Tomas Berdych, a runner-up at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2015, is a strong possibility to come through this section of the draw to the quarterfinals, with the talented but flaky Benoit Paire and young gun Borna Coric, a semifinalist this week in Marrakech, also lurking. Murray’s fitness and form is just too unknown at this point to put much faith in his chances of coming through and Berdych looks the likely beneficiary to me.

Semifinalist: Berdych

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Stan Wawrinka (3) vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7) (5-3)
French Open champion Stan Wawrinka’s only Masters title to date came at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2014 and, with an extremely kind draw and his undeniable clay-court prowess, the Swiss star is a probable finalist and a genuine threat to take the title this week. 

It’s been a solid enough first quarter of the season for Wawrinka, who was a semifinalist at the Australian Open and runner-up at the Indian Wells Masters, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to expect some impressive feats from him on clay (apart from his acknowledged propensity to throw in the occasional surprise defeat). Wawrinka opens against either Mischa Zverev, the German who upset Murray at the Australian Open but has done little since, or powerful Jiri Vesely and could face Sao Paulo champion Pablo Cuevas in the third round, but none of those players should trouble Wawrinka if he’s on any kind of form. The bottom half of this section is bracketed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who played some great tennis earlier in the season but is sure to be a little distracted by brand-new fatherhood this week, and Lucas Pouille, a bright talent and a good clay-court player who has the opportunity for a run to the quarterfinals if he takes it. 

Semifinalist: Wawrinka

Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters 2017 live stream: ATP tennis live from Monte Carlo

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Grigor Dimitrov (8) vs Rafael Nadal (4) (1-8)
With Grigor Dimitrov’s unimpressive flameout of Marrakech last week at the hands of Tommy Robredo seemingly signaling that the bright start he made to the 2017 season was yet another false down, it becomes all but impossible to pick anybody else but nine-time Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters champion Rafael Nadal to make it out of this quarter.

Nadal, who reclaimed the Monte-Carlo Masters title in 2016 after three years without it, has played second fiddle to Roger Federer so far this season but his three defeats at Federer’s hands have obscured the fact that runner-up finishes at the Australian Open, Acapulco and Miami represent definite resurgence for Rafa after some difficult seasons. So there’s every reason for optimism for Nadal on clay.

The nine-time champion opens against either Dan Evans or Kyle Edmund, but things could get interesting quickly with Alexander Zverev, the young German who has pushed Nadal hard in previous meetings, a potential third-round opponent. Dimitrov, meanwhile, has a nice draw with Norwegian wildcard Casper Ruud or Bernard Tomic his potential opening opponents and the always consistent Roberto Bautista Agut likely to meet him in the third round, so I would expect a Nadal-Dimitrov meeting in the quarterfinals – and while Dimitrov beat Nadal for the first time last year, and had match point on him at the Australian Open, one wouldn’t expect him to fare nearly so well on clay.

Semifinalist: Nadal

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Dominic Thiem (6) vs Novak Djokovic (2) (0-4)
Novak Djokovic, like Andy Murray, has also been suffering from an elbow injury – and struggling to find form – but came back to action after missing the Miami Masters in Davis Cup last weekend, when he beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas in fairly smooth straight sets.

Djokovic suffered a shock loss to Jiri Vesely at last year’s Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters but won the tournament in 2013 and 2015, as well as reaching the final on two previous occasions. The world no. 2’s best tennis has been eluding him for the better part of ten months now, ever since he completed the career Grand Slam in Paris last June, but if you don’t count defeats to Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco and Indian Wells as ‘bad’ losses – and I don’t – he’s only suffered one shock loss so far in 2017, at the Australian Open to an inspired Denis Istomin.

That’s to say that Djokovic is going to get it together sooner or later and with his draw, he should at least make it to the semifinals and a promising clash with Nadal. Malek Jaziri or the infuriating but ultimately underpowered Gilles Simon will be Djokovic’s first opponent and he could have to contend with Fabio Fognini, the talented but mercurial Italian who is 13th seed Pablo Carreno Busta’s first-round opponent, in the third round, but neither sixth-seeded workhorse Dominic Thiem or the nimble David Goffin, the two most likely quarterfinal opponents, are likely to pose much of a problem for Djokovic. Nadal in the semifinals is an entirely different matter.

Semifinalist: Djokovic


Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tennis is live from Monaco from 16-23 April. 

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Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters 2017 draw preview and matches to watch: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal could meet in Monte Carlo semifinals

World no. 1 Andy Murray returns to action after an elbow injury, while nine-time champion Rafael Nadal could have to go through Novak Djokovic for a tenth title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, live from Monte Carlo 16-23 April 2017

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