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Seven storylines to follow at the 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 12 Apr 2019
  • The 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters is live between April 14-21
  • We've picked out seven storylines to watch at the first clay Masters 1000 event of the season
Rafael Nadal (PA Images)

The ATP European clay-court season officially gets underway at the picturesque Monte-Carlo Country Club as the first clay Masters 1000 of 2019 begins on April 14 - read on below for seven storylines to watch, live from the Principality.

(geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)

Nadal gunning for Monte-Carlo Masters title No. 12


The King of Clay has dominated the Monte-Carlo Masters tournament since winning his first title all the way back in 2004 when he was still a teenager. Nadal has since amassed a total of 11 titles at the Masters 1000 tournament, including an Open Era record eight straight between 2005-12 for an overall 68-4 record. He’s never lost before the quarter-finals, last tasted defeat in the 2015 semi-finals to Novak Djokovic and is on a 15-match winning streak having secured the silverware in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Nadal has only played three tournaments in 2019, finishing runner-up to Djokovic at the Australian Open, falling to an inspired Nick Kyrgios in the second round of Acapulco and withdrawing before the semi-finals of Indian Wells with a knee injury. A large part of that withdrawal and his subsequent pulling out of Miami was to ensure full fitness for the clay season - will he launch his campaign with more success in Monte-Carlo?

Can Djokovic bounce back from Masters 1000 disappointment?


The World No. 1 has captured the biggest prize of 2019 so far at the Australian Open and once again finds himself on the cusp of holding all four Grand Slams simultaneously at the upcoming French Open, but it’s safe to say Djokovic hasn’t been in the best of form outside of the majors for a few months now. It all started with losses to Karen Khachanov and Alexander Zverev in the finals of Paris and the ATP Finals at the end of last year, and has continued into 2019 with surprise defeats to Roberto Bautista Agut in Doha and Miami and against Philipp Kohlschreiber in Indian Wells. Djokovic has contributed to half of Nadal’s defeats at Monte-Carlo, beating him twice on the way to title triumphs in 2013 and 2015 - but is he playing well enough to do so again?

What’s going on with Zverev?


After winning the biggest title of his career at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals last year, Zverev was expected to push on and really establish himself at the top of the pack. But, instead, it’s been basically the complete opposite, with Zverev yet to beat a top 25 player all season and losing three of his last four matches against Jan-Lennard Struff, David Ferrer and Jaume Munar. Zverev also continued to falter at the majors, bowing out meekly in straight sets to Milos Raonic in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Zverev was a semi-finalist in Monte-Carlo last year and has won Masters 1000 events on clay in Rome and Madrid over the last two years, but the German is woefully out of form at the moment - will he be able to kick-start his campaign in Monte-Carlo, or is he set for another disappointing early exit?

Will Thiem push on after Indian Wells triumph?


It’s very ironic that Thiem secured his first Masters 1000 title on hardcourt, but could that success propel him to a first big clay-court title over the coming months and perhaps in Monte-Carlo itself? The Austrian has suspended his coaching relationship with long-time mentor Gunter Bresnik and is currently solely working with former player Nicolas Massu, who oversaw his run to the Indian Wells title, where he beat Roger Federer in the final. Thiem is the only man to have beaten Nadal on clay in the last two seasons and made his first major final at Roland Garros last year - if he progresses like he has the last few years, he should be taking home one of Monte-Carlo, Rome, Madrid or the French Open in 2019…

How will the young guns fare on clay?


While the ‘Big Three’ of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are still taking home the biggest titles at the majors, there’s no doubt the ‘Next Gen’ is beginning to make their presence known. Stefanos Tsitsipas made the Australian Open semi-finals and is ranked inside the top 10, Karen Khachanov took home the Paris Masters title by beating Djokovic at the end of 2018, Borna Coric and Daniil Medvedev have consistently been making an impact and are in the top 15, while Canadian sensations Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime both made the Miami Masters semi-finals last month. However, clay is a different beast and a much more physical surface for youngsters - will they continue to make an impact, and will one of the aforementioned players be able to challenge the hierarchy of Nadal and Djokovic in Monte-Carlo?

Is this Wawrinka’s moment to fire back up the rankings?


Stan Wawrinka, along with Djokovic, is the only man other than Nadal to have won the Monte-Carlo Masters title in the last 15 years - but the Swiss has been on the comeback trail for the last 18 months after double knee surgery, and while there’s been flashes of brilliance, he just can’t seem to go on that one big run or knock off a top player to get back on track, rebuild the confidence and regain his place back near the very top of the rankings. Wawrinka beat Federer to win the 2014 Monte-Carlo title and of course is a French Open champion, so he knows he is among the very best on clay when at the peak of his powers, but as mentioned, compiling any sort of significant momentum has been tough for the Swiss since his surgery. Perhaps this is his time to shine?

Will Medvedev find his feet on clay?


Daniil Medvedev has been one of the most impressive players on tour over the first quarter of 2019, winning the title in Sofia, finishing runner-up in Brisbane, making the semi-finals of Rotterdam and the fourth rounds of the Australian Open and Miami, where it took Djokovic and Federer to knock him out respectively. However, Medvedev hasn’t been able to reproduce his hardcourt form on clay so far in his young career: in fact, he’s 2-11 on the surface at tour-level. The Russian’s weaknesses have been exposed on the surface and his flat hitting doesn’t compliment the clay at all. If he wants to become a consistent top 10 player, Medvedev needs to start winning matches on the dirt - can he get off to a positive start in Monte-Carlo?

****

The 2019 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters is live from Monte-Carlo between April 14-21.


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Seven storylines to follow at the 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

The ATP European clay-court season officially gets underway at the picturesque Monte-Carlo Country Club as the first clay Masters 1000 of 2019 begins on April 14 - read on below for seven storylines to watch, live from the Principality.

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