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Monte-Carlo Tennis Musings: Medvedev Out, the Felix-Uncle Toni Duo, and Hurkacz’s “Press Conference”

By Ricky Dimon

The first few days of the Monte-Carlo Masters have been headlined by what has taken place off the court as opposed to on the court.

In fact, big news did not even wait for the beginning of 2021’s second Masters 1000 tournament. Last Thursday, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Toni Nadal announced that they would begin a player-coach partnership. Rafael Nadal’s uncle will occasionally travel with the 20-year-old Canadian in a variety of roles, while Frederic Fontang is staying on as Auger-Aliassime’s main coach.

“First off it’s a big privilege,” the world No. 21 said of working with Uncle Toni. “It’s a big chance that I have to have him by my side, to be a coach, my mentor, [and] to help me be a better player.

“We had the chance to train with him in December [at] his home in Mallorca. It went well from the first days and after, we saw how it would be possible to continue to work together in the future. And we did. I’m glad that we are where we are now today and he’s with me now in this first tournament together. So far it’s been good.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada in action during his first round match against Cristian Garin of Chile at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament in Roquebrune Cap Martin, France, 13 April 2021. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

The first match wasn’t so good, as Auger-Aliassime fell to Cristian Garin 7-6(3), 6-1 in the Monte-Carlo opening round on Tuesday.

Of course, there could be worse reasons for being out of the tournament than losing to one of the best clay-court players in the world.

Just ask Daniil Medvedev.

The world No. 2 tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday and obviously had to immediately withdraw from Monte-Carlo. He had practiced with none other than Rafael Nadal on Monday. Nadal reportedly tested negative later on Tuesday and will be tested again on Saturday if he is still in the tournament. Players such as the Spaniard who are staying in “the bubble” at the Monte-Carlo Country Club are tested every four days; players such as Medvedev who are staying at their Monte-Carlo residences are tested every day.

“It’s a big disappointment not to play in Monte-Carlo,” the Russian lamented. “My focus is now on recovery and I look forward to getting back out on tour as soon and as safely as possible.”

Brief as it was, Medvedev’s statement about his Covid-19 result lasted longer than Hubert Hurkacz’s entire first-round press conference. And this is the Miami Open champion we are talking about. Following a three-set victory over Thomas Fabbiano, Hurkacz was asked a grand total of zero questions in either English or Polish (check out the video on YouTube or Twitter for the comedy).

It wasn’t that reporters were in attendance and unwilling to ask questions. In this age of zoom press conferences, they simply did not show up. Hurkacz was requested for an interview, but whoever made the request either forgot to arrive (virtually) at the appointed time or dealt with technical issues.

Make no mistake about this, though: Nadal and Novak Djokovic will get their weeks going on Wednesday during second-round action. Perhaps now the stories will be found on the tennis court.

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