The clay court season is now officially underway in Europe. Here are five intriguing storylines from the 2022 Monte Carlo Masters.
5) Absence of Rafael Nadal.
Widely known as the King of Clay, Nadal has won the Monte Carlo Masters a record 11 times, but has not been victorious here since 2018. In 2019, he was upset in the semifinals by eventual champion Fabio Fognini of Italy, 6-4, 6-2. In 2020, the tournament was cancelled because of coronavirus. Then in 2021, Nadal lost in the quarterfinals to Russia’s Andrey Rublev, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. The reason for Nadal’s absence in Monte Carlo is because of a rib injury.
4) Farewell to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Earlier this week, France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga announced he would retire after the French Open. The 2008 Australian Open finalist, who was ranked as high as fifth in the world in 2012, has won 18 ATP career titles. Tsonga’s first round match at Monte Carlo is one of the most intriguing first round matches of the tournament. After receiving a wildcard, he will be facing Marin Cilic of Croatia, the 2014 United States Open champion. Cilic is at -377, while Tsonga is at +307 according to betonline.ag.
3) Can this be Jannik Sinner’s time?
There is no doubt that Italian star Jannik Sinner is one of the game’s rising stars. At the age of 20, he has already won five ATP titles. But the verdict is out if he has the right game for clay. Last year during the Masters clay court season, he could not reach the third round in Monte Carlo, Madrid or Rome. In Monte Carlo, Sinner will face Croatia’s Borna Coric in the first round. Coric is at +221, while Sinner is at -261 according to betonline.ag.
2) Return of Stanislas Wawrinka.
Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, the three-time grand slam champion, is making his return to the ATP Tour for the first time since Doha of March of last year. He has been out for over a year because of recovery from foot surgery. Wawrinka is 37 years old, and will face Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan in round one. Bublik is at -174, while Wawrinka is at +154 according to betonline.ag.
1) Novak Djokovic in the field.
After withdrawing from the Masters 1000 Series events in the United States because he is unvaccinated, and not being allowed into Australia because of Australia’s vaccination rules, the world number one is competing in Monte Carlo this week and has a first round bye. In the second round, he will be facing Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, the 2021 French Open quarterfinalist. Djokovic is a two-time Monte Carlo Masters champion, as he beat Nadal in 2013, and Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in 2015.