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Monte-Carlo update: Djokovic back in action, wild cards for Wawrinka and Tsonga

By Ricky Dimon

The clay-court swing won’t waste any time shifting into high gear. Following tournaments in Houston and Marrakech to begin the dirt swing, another Masters 1000 event will be held next week in Monte-Carlo. It is the first of three Masters 1000s on clay, and if you include Indian Wells and Miami we are in the midst of a stretch with five Masters 1000 tournaments in a span of less than three months.

Clearly it’s one of the best times of the year in tennis–especially if you’re someone like Rafael Nadal.

Unfortunately for Nadal, he will miss at least both Monte-Carlo and Barcelona in the early stages of his normal clay-court schedule. The 21-time Grand Slam champion won his first 20 matches in 2022–including the Australian Open title–but he sustained a rib injury in Indian Wells (finished runner-up to Taylor Fritz) and skipped Miami.

With Nadal sidelined, the door could be open for any number of competitors at the Monte-Carlo Masters. Of course, a different Spaniard could shut it. Carlos Alcaraz, 17 years Nadal’s junior, reached the Indian Wells semifinals (lost to Nadal in three sets) and then won the Miami Open. He is already up to No. 11 in the world. As good as Alcaraz is on hard courts, his already well-documented clay-court prowess was further confirmed when he lifted the trophy in Rio de Janeiro two months ago.

Alcaraz will be one of the top favorites in Monte-Carlo along with Novak Djokovic, who is set for just his second tournament of the season. The top-ranked Serb was forced out of the Australian Open because he is unvaccinated and he was unable to enter the United States and therefore had to withdraw from Indian Wells and Miami. There are no such vaccination requirements in Monte-Carlo, so Djokovic is good to go and will be the No. 1 seed. The 34-year-old is a two-time champion in the principality (2013, 2015).

As the entry list stands right now, Djokovic will be followed in the seedings by Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, and Andrey Rublev. Along with Nadal, Daniil Medvedev is a notable absentee because of a hernia.

Two of the four wild cards have been handed out–to Stan Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. 

Wawrinka has not played an ATP-level match since March of 2021. The 36-year-old Swiss was the Monte-Carlo champion in 2014. Tsonga, a two-time Monte-Carlo semifinalist (2013, 2016), began his comeback from injury earlier this year with four tournaments in France (two Challengers) plus the ATP 500 in Rotterdam. The 36-year-old Frenchman has won three matches in total (two on the main tour) and he is coming off a three-set loss to Jordan Thompson in Miami.

Main-draw competition in Monte-Carlo begins on Sunday. Tsitsipas is the defending champion, having defeated Rublev in the championship match last spring.

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