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Ricky’s Tennis picks for the ATP Monte-Carlo Masters: Djokovic returns, Alcaraz back in action

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic returns to action in his adopted home of Monte-Carlo. Photo credit: Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters Facebook

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal may be sidelined for the beginning of the clay-court swing, but there is still plenty of intrigue for the Monte-Carlo Masters. Much of that has to do with Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz, who happen to be in the same quarter of the draw. Djokovic is playing in just his second tournament of the season, while Alcaraz is hoping to build on his incredible start to the 2022 campaign.

Although this is the only Masters 1000 event that is not required for the top players in the world, it boasts a strong field even beyond Djokovic and Alcaraz. Rounding out the top eight seeds are Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Cameron Norrie.

Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

Where: Monte-Carlo, Monaco
Prize money
: 5,415,410 Euros
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion: Stefanos Tsitsipas

With Djokovic and Alcaraz in the top half—and even top quarter—that is obviously the place nobody else wants to be. Tennis fans are already salivating over that potential quarterfinal contest, but neither player has the easiest path to make it that far. Djokovic could meet Roberto Bautista Agut in round three, while Alcaraz awaits either Sebastian Korda or Botic Van de Zandschulp in his opener before possibly facing Taylor Fritz. Alcaraz and Ruud are on a collision course for the semis in what would be a rematch of the Miami final (won by the Spaniard in straight sets). The Norwegian is in a favorable section of the Monte-Carlo bracket, as neither Norrie nor Hubert Hurkacz is at his best on clay.

At the bottom of the draw, the second-seeded Tsitsipas is the defending champion. It’s true that he has struggled since last season’s runner-up performance at the French Open, but two of his results undoubtedly would have been better if not for Alcaraz (U.S. Open last year, Miami two weeks ago). In a Monte-Carlo section with no seeded players in great form (the others are Auger-Aliassime, Diego Schwartzman, and Lorenzo Sonego), Tsitsipas is well set up to make another run in the principality. Meanwhile, with Zverev and Rublev not entirely on top of their games the door could be open for Jannik Sinner and Pablo Carreno Busta.

First-round matches to watch include Korda vs. Van de Zandschulp, Hurkacz vs. Gael Monfils, Sinner vs. Borna Coric, Marin Cilic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lorenzo Musetti vs. Benoit Paire, and Alexander Bublik vs. Stan Wawrinka.

Lorenzo Musetti of Italy will pull off a Monte-Carlo upset. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

First-round upset chance: Gael Monfils over (11) Hubert Hurkacz. You never know what you are going to get from Monfils, but on this surface—Hurkacz’s worst—the Frenchman will have a good chance if he plays anywhere close to his best tennis.

Second-round upset chance: Lorenzo Musetti over (6) Felix Auger-Aliassime. Auger-Aliassime did not win a single match in Indian Wells and Miami before losing his opener this past week in Marrakech. Musetti is rounding back into form at the moment and now finds himself on his favorite surface.

Quarterfinal picks: Novak Djokovic over Carlos Alcaraz, Casper Ruud over Cameron Norrie, Stefanos Tsitsipas over Lorenzo Musetti, and Jannik Sinner over Pablo Carreno Busta

Semifinals: Djokovic over Ruud and Tsitsipas over Sinner

Final: Djokovic over Tsitsipas

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.