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Ricky’s Preview And Predictions For The 2018 ATP Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain during their final match at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament in Roquebrune Cap Martin, France, 23 April 2017. EPA/SEBASTIEN NOGIER



By Ricky Dimon


The clay-court swing moves to Europe this week, and it won’t leave until after the French Open. On the heels less prestigious tournaments in Marrakech and Houston, the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters represents the true beginning of one of the best eight-week stretches in every tennis season.


And this Masters 1000 event should not disappoint. Although Rafael Nadal played two Davis Cup singles matches earlier in April, this week is his first ATP tournament appearance since he retired from his Aussie Open semifinal showdown against Marin Cilic because of a hip injury. All eyes will also be focused on Novak Djokovic, whose attempted comeback from various physical problems has so far been a disaster in 2018. With Djokovic ailing, Cilic not at his best on the red, and Dominic Thiem rusty due to an injury of his own, can anyone stop Nadal?


Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters


Where: Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Points: 1000

Top seed: Rafael Nadal

Defending champion: Rafael Nadal


For the sake of balance, the fewer times Nadal and Thiem are in the same quarter of draws during this clay-court swing the better. But that is exactly the case for the first of three Masters 1000 tournaments, as they could go head-to-head in the Monte-Carlo quarters. Nadal, who will kick off his campaign against either Aljaz Bedene or a qualifier, should have zero no trouble reaching the last eight. Thiem, though, opens with either Robin Haase or Andrey Rublev and he is potentially on a collision course for the third round with either Djokovic or Borna Coric.


A difficult top half of the draw also features opening bye recipients Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin. With Goffin having played only one match since Rotterdam in February as a result of an eye injury, the Belgian’s section is wide open. Roberto Bautista Agut, Feliciano Lopez, Denis Shapovalov, and Benoit Paire are among those looking to take advantage. Dimitrov has a friendly draw, likely facing Filip Krajinovic in the second round and potentially Albert Ramos-Vinolas thereafter.


Alexander Zverev finished runner-up at the most recent Masters 1000 event (Miami Open) and an identical result is not out of the question in Monte-Carlo, where he is arguably the favorite to meet Nadal in the title match. The 20-year-old German, who got thrashed by Nadal in Davis Cup but also clobbered David Ferrer, finds himself in a section of the bracket along with Lucas Pouille, Diego Schwartzman, Fabio Fognini, and Richard Gasquet.


Big serving will be on display throughout the bottom quarter of the draw, which is home to Cilic, Milos Raonic, and Tomas Berdych. A more traditional clay-courter in Pablo Carreno Busta, however, may be the one to go through to the semifinals. Carreno Busta, a French Open quarterfinalist last spring, could run into current Marrakech finalist Kyle Edmund in the second round and either Berdych or Kei Nishikori in the last 16.


Berdych vs. Nishikori is definitely a first-rounder to watch. Others are Paire vs. Lopez, Edmund vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov, Fernando Verdasco vs. Pablo Cuevas, and Thanasi Kokkinakis vs. Karen Khachanov.


First-round upset possibilty: (WC) Gilles Simon over (16) Adrian Mannarino. Simon has not been great since winning Pune in the first week of the year, but he may not have to be great against his fellow Frenchman. Mannarino, who is a mere 9-8 this season, is at his best on either grass or a low-bouncing hard court–clay is without question his worst surface. Simon got a couple a clay-court matches under his belt in Marrakech, so the veteran should be feeling comfortable on the slow stuff.


Quarterfinal picks: Rafael Nadal over Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov over Roberto Bautista Agut, Diego Schwartzman over Fabio Fognini, and Pablo Carreno Busta over Milos Raonic

Semifinals: Nadal over Dimitrov and Carreno Busta over Schwartzman

Final: Nadal over Carreno Busta


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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