After the conclusion of the 2017 Miami Open and Roger Federer’s triumph/continued surprise domination of the year so far, the international tennis world’s focus will shift to Europe and the clay courts for the time being.
The Monte Carlo Masters, a favorite of tennis stars and precursor to the summer’s French Open, commenced on Sunday. The only seeded player to play today was Belgian David Goffin, who advanced to the second round with a victory over fellow countryman Steve Darcis, 6-2 6-1. The bigger names will come later this week.
Andy Murray, still World No. 1, is still undecided about playing in Monte Carlo after missing out on Miami due to an elbow injury. He has not played since Indian Wells in early March. He’s not necessarily in danger of losing his top ranking any time soon, though some competitive play before the French Open seems essential. It’s unsettling for Murray fans to see him struggling this year, but extra recuperating time isn’t always a bad thing, as we’ve seen from Federer this year.
After emerging victorious at the Davis Cup quarterfinal last week, World No. 2 Novak Djokovic will be present at these Masters, a tournament he is very familiar with, having competed in it 10 times prior. He maintains his offseason residence in Monte Carlo and spoke recently about the comfort of competing at home: “This is where I call home and where my training camp is, so I spend a lot of time on these courts…It’s a very special week for me and I’ve had that feeling for many years.” He will look to revive his season after a relatively lackluster 2017 so far (for him) and seems ready to go.
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) April 15, 2017
Rafael Nadal, who has had to face off against Federer three times in 2017 now (and many times prior in their storied careers), heads to Monte Carlo as the reigning champion. Federer has stated that he will not compete again until the French Open, paving the way for Nadal, the greatest clay court player of all time. His performance here and in the coming weeks will perhaps be the most important, as a string of successive titles may be the boost of confidence he needs heading into the French Open.
Nadal and Djokovic are no strangers to each other either, and it will be interesting to see how they get on in the buildup to this summer’s Grand Slams. Finishing the year as World No. 1 is possible for both of them, especially if they continue to take advantage of the prep tournaments ahead of Roland Garros and Wimbledon. As two of the greatest players of all time they don’t have much to prove, but this Monte Carlo Masters will go a long way in showing who is most prepared to take on the clay court season.