Murray, Djokovic, Nadal Head To The Clay In Monte-Carlo
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP World Tour
European Clay Court Circuit Commences: The European clay court circuit begins with the third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the season as the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters gets underway Sunday at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. This is the first of three ATP Masters 1000 tournaments played on clay (Madrid, Rome).
The outstanding field features seven of the Top 10 (four of the Top 5) in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Overall, there are 14 of the Top 20 in the 56-player draw. There are three former champions in the field: Rafael Nadal (2005-12, 2016), Novak Djokovic (2013, 2015) and Stan Wawrinka (2014).
Big Four Domination: The ‘Big Four’ of Andy Murray, Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer have won 58 of the past 63 Masters 1000 tournaments going back to Nadal’s triumph at Monte-Carlo in 2010. The only other players to emerge with a Masters 1000 title during that time are Robin Soderling (2010 Paris), David Ferrer (2012 Paris), Stan Wawrinka (2014 Monte-Carlo), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2014 Toronto) and Marin Cilic (2016 Cincinnati).
Here is a breakdown of the Masters 1000 titles won by the Big Four during that span: Djokovic (25), Nadal (13), Federer (10) and Murray (10). The foursome are also among the Top 5 in Masters 1000 titles: 1) Djokovic 30, 2) Nadal 28, 3) Federer 26, 4) Agassi 17, 5) Murray 14.
Murray, Djokovic Back in Action: World No. 1 Murray and No. 2 Djokovic return to the ATP World Tour after missing Miami with elbow injuries. Both players have 12-3 match records on the season with one title. Murray won in Dubai (d. Verdasco) and Djokovic opened the year with a repeat title in Doha (d. Murray).
Both are coming off early exits in their last tournament in Indian Wells where Murray lost to Vasek Pospisil in the second round on 12 March and Djokovic fell to Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round on 15 March.
Last year Murray returned to Monte-Carlo for the first time since 2013, and he lost to Nadal in the semi-finals for the third time (2009, 2011). The Scot has a 14-8 match record in Monte-Carlo, where he is the top seed for the first time.
Last season Murray won a personal-best 18 matches on clay (18-3), capturing the Rome title and reaching finals at Madrid and Roland Garros. Over the past two years, Murray is 35-4 on clay after compiling a 63-37 record from 2005-14. He is two wins from 100 career clay court match wins.
Djokovic is playing in Monte-Carlo for the 11th time in 12 years (except 2011), and he has a 28-8 record, capturing titles in 2013 (d. Nadal) and 2015 (d. Berdych) while reaching finals in 2009 and 2012 (l. to Nadal both). He has a 13-2 record since 2013 after starting out 15-6.
Last year he lost in the second round (bye) to Jiri Vesely in three sets, his first opening match exit since 2006 debut (l. to Federer in 1R). Djokovic has compiled clay records of 16-1 in 2015 and 16-2 last year as he won the Mutua Madrid Open and Roland Garros while reaching the final in Rome.
Rafa Mr. April: Nadal’s most productive month is April with 17 of his 69 career titles followed by May (12), June (11) and July (7). Nadal has a 58-4 career record in Monte-Carlo with a tournament record nine titles. He won eight titles in a row from 2005-12 and his 46-match winning streak ended with a runner-up in 2013.
Last year he won his ninth title (d. Monfils). Nadal comes in with a 19-5 match record on the season with three runner-up showings: Australian Open (l. to Federer), Acapulco (l. to Querrey) and Miami (l. to Federer). This is the sixth time since 2005 Nadal enters Monte-Carlo without an ATP World Tour title on the season.
In the five previous times he captured his first title of the year in Monte-Carlo: 2008, 2010-11-12 and last year. Nadal, who compiled a 21-4 clay court record last season with titles in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, has the best clay court winning percentage (.915) in the Open Era. His first match will be the 400th of his career on clay (365-34).
Clay Court Titles List: Nadal is tied with Guillermo Vilas for the most clay court titles in the Open Era (since 1968):
1) Rafael Nadal 49
3) Thomas Muster 40
#NextGenATP Stars: There are five #NextGenATP players in the main draw, led by No. 20 Alexander Zverev. Here’s a look at the talented 21 & under group:
Rank Age Monte-Carlo History
Alexander Zverev No. 20 +19 1-1 (2R - 2016)
Karen Khachanov No. 52 20 Main Draw Debut
Daniil Medvedev No. 61 20 Main Draw Debut
Borna Coric (WC) No. 79 20 0-2 (1R - 2015-16)
Casper Ruud (WC) No. 126 18 Main Draw Debut
+Turns 20 on April 20
Milestone Watch: Marin Cilic is four match wins away from 400 in his career and Tomas Berdych is six wins away from becoming the 25th player in the Open Era with 600 wins. He is five wins away from tying coach Goran Ivanisevic who had 599.
Papa Jo-Wilfried: Two-time Monte-Carlo semi-finalist and top Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is playing his first tournament since becoming a father for the first time with the arrival of his son, Shugar, born on 18 March. Tsonga will turn 32 on Monday.
Tsonga is off to a 17-4 start this season with two ATP World Tour titles (Rotterdam, Marseille). Tsonga, who reached the semi-finals in 2013 and last year, is playing in Monte-Carlo for the eighth straight year. He has a 14-7 record.
Harrison Newlywed: Playing for the first time in Monte-Carlo is extra special for Ryan Harrison. The 24-year-old American is playing in his first tournament since getting married to Lauren McHale, 31 March in Austin, Texas. McHale’s sister, Christina, plays on the WTA Tour. Harrison won his first ATP World Tour title in Memphis in February and is one of six Americans ranked in the Top 50.
Haas Returns: Former World No. 2 Tommy Haas, the oldest player in the singles draw at 39, returns to Monte-Carlo for the first time since 2008. This past week in Houston the 39-year-old German won his first match since 2015 Wimbledon as he defeated #NextGenATP 19-year-old Reilly Opelka in three sets before losing in the next round in three sets to top American Jack Sock.
Haas became the oldest player to win an ATP World Tour match since Jimmy Connors (42) in 1995 Halle. He is playing in his fifth tournament of the season (1-4). He has a 7-6 record in Monte-Carlo with his best result the QFs in 2002. Haas, who is the tournament director in Indian Wells, has a protected ranking of No. 25.
Infosys ATP World Tour Wins Leaders: Here is a look at this season’s match wins leaders on the ATP World Tour:
1) Jack Sock 20-6 2
2) Roger Federer 19-1 3
Rafael Nadal 19-5 0
David Goffin 19-7 0
5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 17-4 0
Grigor Dimitrov 17-5 2
Dominic Thiem 17-8 1
Outstanding Doubles Field: Eight of the Top 10 teams in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings are entered in the draw, led by top seeds and Australian Open champions Henri Kontinen and John Peers. The defending champions are Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who are the No. 2 seeds. They defeated Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 4-6, 6-0, 10-6. Here is a look at the Top 8 teams entered: Kontinen/Peers, Lukasz Kubot & Marcelo Melo, Raven Klaasen & Rajeev Ram, Jamie Murray & Bruno Soares, Jean-Julien Rojer & Horia Tecau, Ivan Dodig & Marcel Granollers, Herbert/Mahut, Pablo Carreno Busta & Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Former Champions in Draw: Reigning champions Herbert/Mahut are the only team to win the title playing together this year. Five-time champion Nenad Zimonjic, who is playing for the 17th time in the Past 18 years (except 2003), leads a list of five other players who have won the title:
-- Nenad Zimonjic (5): 2004 (w/Henman), 2005 (w/Paes), 2009-10 (w/Nestor), 2013 (w/Benneteau)
-- Max Mirnyi (2): 2003 (w/Bhupathi), 2006 (w/ Bjorkman)
-- Daniel Nestor (2): 2009-10 (w/Zimonjic)
-- Julien Benneteau (1): 2013 (w/Zimonjic)
-- Pierre-Hugues Herbert (1): 2016 (w/Mahut)
-- Nicolas Mahut (1): 2016 (w/Herbert)
Top 10 Singles Players in Draw: There are four Top 10 singles players in the doubles draw. The last Top 10 singles player to win the doubles title was No. 2 Rafael Nadal (w/Robredo) in 2008. No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who is playing doubles in Monte-Carlo for the first time since 2010, leads the group:
No. 2 Novak Djokovic (w/Troicki)
No. 3 Stan Wawrinka (w/Fognini)
No. 8 Marin Cilic (w/Petzschner)
No. 9 Dominic Thiem (w/Kohlschreiber)
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