Rafael Nadal has a tough task if he is to lift an 11th trophy at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, with three players in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings and also two-time former champion Novak Djokovic in his half of the draw, following the ceremony at the Atrium du Casino de Monte-Carlo on Friday. The Spanish star, who is attempting to capture his 54th clay-court crown, will need to potentially beat Dominic Thiem or Djokovic, before a possible semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov or David Goffin.
Nadal, who will meet Aljaz Bedene or a qualifier in the second round, could face Adrian Mannarino in the third round, prior to a quarter-final against 2013 and 2015 titlist Djokovic or Thiem. Nadal lost to Djokovic in the 2013 Monte-Carlo final, ending a 46-match winning streak at the tournament. The World No. 1 beat Thiem in last year’s Barcelona Open Banc Sababell and Mutua Madrid Open finals, plus also in the Roland Garros semi-finals. But Thiem did overcome Nadal in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarter-finals in May 2017.
“I always feel good when I am here, it is one of my favourite tournaments,” admitted Nadal, during the draw ceremony that was hosted by Zeljko Franulovic, the Tournament Director of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and the 1970 champion (d. Orantes). “It’s been a love story between me and this event, the people who run the tournament. I saw this tournament on the TV before I started playing here and always wanted to do well. These sorts of tournaments help me to wake up in the morning and to train and compete with a lot of passion.”
The 31-year-old Nadal, who has a 63-4 record at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments, has an incredible 319-35 record (.918) on clay courts according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone. He is riding a 10-match winning streak at the event, but should he not retain the trophy Roger Federer will return to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings, for his 309th week in top spot, on 23 April.
Nadal and Djokovic, who is looking to regain confidence, have both captured a record 30 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns. Monte-Carlo resident Djokovic, the ninth seed this week, will face a qualifier in his first match, before a possible second-round meeting against Filip Krajinovic or Paolo Lorenzi. Fifth seed Thiem, who opens against Andrey Rublev or Robin Haase, may then lie in wait for Djokovic in the third round.
Second seed Marin Cilic, a quarter-finalist in 2015 and 2017, will begin his quest for a second Masters 1000 title (2017 Western & Southern Open), against 2010 runner-up Fernando Verdasco or Pablo Cuevas. In the same quarter of the draw, No. 12 seed and 2015 finalist Tomas Berdych will meet Kei Nishikori in a must-see opener.
Third seed Alexander Zverev, who has a 3-2 record in the Principality, will challenge Gilles Muller or a qualifier in the second round as he bids to lift a third Masters 1000 trophy (also 2017 Rome and Rogers Cup in Montreal). Seventh seed Lucas Pouille, who advanced to his first Masters 1000 semi-final last year (l. to Ramos-Vinolas), takes on Mischa Zverev or wild card Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Originally published at Rolex Monte-Carlo Tennis Masters