The Monte Carlo Open marks the official start of the clay court season on the ATP World Tour.
The luxurious haven for the rich and famous along the Mediterranean coast will be an early indicator of who will be in early clay court form leading into the French Open in May.
Monte Carlo is one of the most historic events in tennis with a long list of great and interesting players who have won the championship. The event started in 1897 and was one by British great Reggie Doherty, who ended up winning the title six times, while his brother Lawrence won the tournament four times. Anthony Wilding, the swash-bulking New Zealander won the title five times, Henri Cochet of France, Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy, Ilie Nastase of Romania, Bjorn Borg of Sweden and Thomas Muster of Austria have won the title three times each. Americans have not fared well, and often don’t even bother playing on the slow red clay event. Bill Tilden won the title in 1930 and Frank Parker in 1949. American Straight Clark won an All-American final in 1951 beating Fred Kovaleski, who at the time, was a CIA spy! The last American to win in Monte Carlo was Hugh Stewart in 1956.
Djokovic, who lives in Monte Carlo, will be returning to play after missing the Miami Open due to elbow issues. With Djokovic’s relative “slump” and Andy Murray’s elbow injuries, many are targeting Wawrinka to potentially seize the No. 2 ranking and his charge up to that slot could start in Monte Carlo, where he won the title in 2014, beating Roger Federer in the final.
Federer will not be playing in Monaco – saying he will take most if not all of the clay-court season off leading into the French Open. During his victory speech after winning the Miami Open final over Nadal, Federer joked that his Spanish rival would likely beat up on all comers once again during the clay season and Monte Carlo will be the first test. Nadal has won Monte Carlo nine times, including last year against Gael Monfils in the final, but has not won a title since he won on clay in Barcelona almost a year ago. That makes Nadal especially hungry to return to the winner’s circle and bite into another trophy as he traditionally does. No one is more motivated for the clay-court season than Nadal at the moment, so look out.