The week ahead on the ATP Tour sees the Monte Carlo Masters take place, and with Djokovic and Nadal resuming their season, Dan Weston discusses whether normal status will be resumed.
"In what has historically been a slow conditions clay tournament, Nadal is 19-1 here in the last five years, with just a shock loss to Fabio Fognini in 2019 scuppering a clean sweep for him."
Elite duo return in Monte Carlo
Following the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal took two months off tour and skipped the Miami Masters, but resume their season back in Europe this week in Monte Carlo. In their absence, we saw a different dynamic in Miami with Daniil Medvedev a fairly strong pre-tournament favourite and two players ranked outside the top 20 competed in the final.
In my view at least, that dynamic was a refreshing one - we saw some new players break through in that event to produce arguably a more competitive tournament with less of an ability differential between many players fighting to make the latter stages.
However, it's back to the old routine here in Monte Carlo. Rafa Nadal - the King of Clay - is currently trading as a 1.784/5 tournament favourite on the Exchange, and with Novak Djokovic slightly further back at 3.90, the elite duo are taking around an 80% implied percentage chance of tournament success (via the outright market prices) between them.
Tournament previously dominated by Nadal
In what has historically been a slow conditions clay tournament, Nadal is 19-1 here in the last five years, with just a shock loss to Fabio Fognini in 2019 scuppering a clean sweep for him, and this has been like a home tournament for Nadal, winning 11 of the last 15 tournaments at this venue. He's only ever lost in one final - to Djokovic in 2013.
Even after several months away from competitive action, it's difficult to go against Nadal in a tournament which he has completely dominated over the best part of two decades. The draw keeps him and Djokovic apart until the final and the Spaniard has got a fairly kind draw with Daniil Medvedev - who is at least a little less proven on clay than on hard courts - the number two seed in his part of the draw.
Djokovic could be threatened by Tsitsipas
Conversely, Djokovic is joined by some trickier opposition. Miami runner-up Jannik Sinner in his opener would be a brutal start - assuming the Italian progresses past Albert Ramos tomorrow - will Hubert Hurkacz, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas also feature in his half of the draw. There are also some threats from players without first-round byes in this bracket, including Christian Garin, Lorenzo Musetti and Aslan Karatsev, with the latter two meeting in round one later today.
Tsitsipas has shown a much higher level this year compared to recent years, and is now playing at a genuine top five level. I've been vocal before that he was sometimes priced on potential rather than current ability, but he's realising that potential now - and markedly improving on return (winning 25% of return games this season so far). His clay record is also good and he looks the best option of the next tier of players at around 17.016/1.
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