After a low-key start on Sunday, the Monte Carlo Masters kicks into action on Monday with 13 first-round matches. Dan Weston returns to preview the day ahead...
"Garin is a proven clay-courter with strong surface numbers - a combined service/return points won percentage in excess of 104% in the last year on clay."
Musetti versus Karatsev arguably the match of the day
There were wins for David Goffin (over Marin Cilic) and Jordan Thompson (against Benoit Paire) on the opening day which featured just two matches - both matches were decided in three sets. We're up to 26 players today, all competing to join the duo in round two, and there are some cracking clashes on the schedule today.
Arguably the most fascinating is between Lorenzo Musetti and Aslan Karatsev, two players who have enjoyed breakthroughs in the last 12 months albeit in various stages of their career. The young Italian, Musetti, looks like being on a journey to the top - with a particular bias towards clay at this point. His numbers on the main tour and at lower levels are excellent for a player of his age, but he faces an opponent in Karatsev who has had a complete career turnaround at the age of 27.
Such a turnaround is extremely rare but make no mistake, Karatsev's numbers in 2021 are top 10-15 level. It doesn't look like a fluke or a particular benefit of positive variance - at this point in time his rapid rise up the rankings looks justified. The duo meet early in today's schedule and I can't split the players. Karatsev is the marginal market favourite at 1.9620/21.
Garin the more proven clay-courter in Auger-Aliassime clash
Another clash which looks very interesting is Felix Auger-Aliassime versus Christian Garin, and it's the Canadian, Auger-Aliassime, who is the current favourite on the Exchange at 1.758/11. Garin is a proven clay-courter with strong surface numbers - a combined service/return points won percentage in excess of 104% in the last year on clay - and in the expected slower conditions in Monte Carlo he should provide strong competition to Auger-Aliassime, who has a much higher reputation but hasn't done much on clay so far in his career.
Last year Auger-Aliassime went 1-3 on clay with two defeats as around a 1.251/4 favourite against Yoshihito Nishioka and Alexander Bublik and despite getting to the final in Lyon in 2019, he underwhelmed on the surface that year too.
We have to consider that Auger-Aliassime, as a player on a strong upward ability curve in general, could well improve on clay as well but there's not a lot of evidence to suggest that this will be immediate. While it's a tentative pick, I'd rather side with the more proven player on the surface in Garin today as an underdog.
Fognini tough to predict in advance of this week
There are other matches worth discussing in brief as well, with Guido Pella a 1.824/5 favourite over Lucas Pouille.
In normal circumstances this looks big but Pella hasn't been particularly active in recent times and could be rusty. Defending champion from 2019, Fabio Fognini, is another player who has been rusty on court and of course is only consistent in his inconsistency - but retains the ability to suddenly string a number of wins together - he's 1.705/7 against an improving young player, Miomir Kecmanovic.
Finally, Grigor Dimitrov versus Jan-Lennard Struff looks like one of the higher-quality meetings today, and the Bulgarian is 1.608/13 to get the win, which isn't hugely out of line.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings