2012 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, ATP Monte Carlo Preview
by Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Monte Carlo Rolex Masters
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Monte Carlo, Monaco
April 15-April 22, 2012
Prize Money: € 2,427,975
The third ATP Masters 1000 series event of the year, the one on the red clay of Monte Carlo, kicks off today. lmost all of the big names on the ATP world tour excluding the notable absences of 3 top 10 players (Roger Federer, Juan Martin Del Potro and John Isner) are there. Here is a preview.
Top 8 Seeds (who all receive 1st round byes)
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Rafael Nadal
4: Jo Wilfried-Tsonga
5: David Ferrer
6: Tomas Berdych
7: Janko Tipsarevic
8: Nicolas Almagro
1st Round matchups to watch:
Alexandr Dolgopolov (16) vs. Juan Ignacio Chela
Dolgopolov, who has struggled as of late losing his first match in Casablanca last week to Flavio Cipolla, will take on the streaky Argentina Chela, who has a habit of putting together some good results and then struggling the next time out. While Dolgopolov is the higher ranked player, it will be interesting to see if he can keep his game together and win this 1st round match-up against a dangerous player. In the 2nd round, the winner would face either Dennis Istomin or Bernard Tomic and then likely face top seed Novak Djokovic in the 3rd round. It will not be an easy draw for them.
Thomaz Bellucci vs. Kevin Anderson
The Brazilian Bellucci, whose preferred surface has always been clay, will take on the big serving Kevin Anderson in what is an interesting matchup stylistically and surface wise. Anderson is the higher ranked player at 33 compared to 44 for Bellucci and has had a good year so far, but Bellucci always plays his best on clay and has had some good wins in the past. The winner will face David Ferrer, who is never an easy match-up on any surface especially clay in the 2nd round.
Kei Nishikori (12) vs. Albert Ramos
Ramos comes off a finals and possibly championship run (depending on the result in his match today vs. fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar) on clay in Casablanca that resulted in him breaking the top 50. He’ll face the steadily improving Nishikori. Assuming Ramos is not too worn out from all the tennis he has played the past few days (Nishikori being well rested), it should be interesting to see if Ramos can make a match of it.
Donald Young vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu
Donald Young, who has had some very inconsistent performances as of late including a loss in the 1st round in Casablanca to Benoit Paire last week, is trying to piece his game back together. He’ll meet the Frenchmen Mathieu, who continues his comeback efforts after being off the tour for over a year due to injury (he lost in the 2nd round of Casablanca last week to Guillermo-Garcia Lopez). They have both been playing a lot of clay court tennis in North Africa on the Morocco Tennis Tour swing (challengers and ATP Casablanca) and should be recently familiar with each other.
Milos Raonic vs. Albert Montanes
Raonic, who has not played since the Sony Ericson open in Miami last month where he lost in the 3rd round with a walkover to Andy Murray due to an ankle injury he sustained in practice, will take on the Spanish grinder Montanes on his preferred surface. While Raonic is certainly higher ranked (25 vs. 69) and has already won a title this year in San Jose, it will be interesting to see if rust will play a factor along with surface.
Feliciano Lopez vs. Stanislas Wawrinka
Lopez, coming off a semi-final run in Houston, will take on Wawrinka in what could be a very exciting match with no definitive favorite.
Radek Stepanek vs. Jarkko Niemenen
The feisty Stepanek will take on the lefty Finn Niemenen who has had some good results this year and is in the top 50. They are vying for the right to face Rafael Nadal in the 2nd round. That will certainly be a momentous task for the winner of this one.
On one other 1st round note of interest, Ivan Dodig took out Croat countryman Ivan Lljubicic this morning in straight sets 6-0 6-3 in what was Ljubicic’s final match on the ATP World Tour. He has had a storied career that includes a career high ranking of world no 3 in 2006, a semi-final run at the French Open in 2006 and 10 career titles including a title at the BNP Paribas Open master series tournament in Indian Wells over Andy Roddick in 2010. He will now ride off into the sunset joining other recently retired or soon to be retired players such as Fernando Gonzalez, Rainer Schuettler and Conor Niland (the top ranked Irishman announced his retirement this week due to nagging injuries).
Top Half :
World no. 1 Novak Djokovic, who skipped Monte Carlo last year as Federer is doing this year, will certainly be a favorite in the top half of the draw that features David Ferrer, Andy Murray, Thomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori among others.
Djokovic will have a draw that will give him a likely quarterfinal match up with last year’s Monte Carlo finalist, David Ferrer, who will try to avenge his hard fought loss to Djokovic at the Sony Ericcson Open in Miami last month. This rematch would be on clay. That assumes that Novak can get through Andreas Seppi or a qualifier in the 2nd round and Istomin, Dolgopolov, Tomic or Chela in the 3rd round. If he can make it that far and get through Ferrer, he would likely face Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych or Kei Nishikori in the semis.
The 5th seed Ferrer will probably face Houston finalist Juan Monaco in the 3rd round in what would be a real clay court battle if he can get past Bellucci or Anderson in the 2nd round. The winner will have to deal with Djokovic in the quarters.
For his part, Andy Murray, seeded 3rd this time, will likely face a slumping Viktor Troicki in the 2nd round and Jurgen Melzer, Julien Benneteu or Marcel Granollers in the 3rd round. That would set him up for a likely quarter final match up with Tomas Berdych or Kei Nishikori. Melzer, Benneteu and Granollers all like the clay and are certainly dangerous opponents, but it’s a good looking draw for Murray, who could use a good result here. He would also be favored over Berdych or Nishikori before having to, most likely, deal with Djokovic in the semis.
The forementioned Berdych faces a likely 2nd round match up with the dangerous Marin Cilic and then a likely 3rd round match-up with Nishikori. He should be favored in before having to deal with Murray in the quarters.
The 2 seed, Rafael Nadal, will test his knees on the surface he loves to dominate as he tries to defend his title last year at Monte Carlo. His draw features a 2nd round match up with Niemenen or Stepanek, a likely 3rd round match up with 14 seed Florian Mayer of Germany and then a possible quarterfinals match up with countryman Nicolas Almagro. He would then likely face Janko Tipsarevic or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semis. It’s a very winnable draw for the Spaniard and I don’t see too many threats to him lurking.
Almagro, the 8 seed, will probably face Carlos Berlocq in the 2nd round and then Feliciano Lopez in the 3rd round. Berlocq could be a threat, but his recent play in Houston and the fact he was forced to retire in a match there against Lopez puts a serious question mark on his hopes. Houston semi-finalist Lopez will probably face Casablanca finalist and countryman Pablo Andujar in the 2nd round, with the winner facing Almagro.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, one of the home favorites and the 4 seed, has a draw that will likely have him facing wily German Phillip Kohlschreiber in the 2nd round and then a probable match-up with the always dangerous Fernando Verdasco in the 3rd round. It does not get any easier for the Frenchmen from there, as he will probably get 7 seed Janko Tipsarevic in the quarters before the winner has to deal with Rafa in the semis. Verdasco, the 13 seed, faces Olivier Rochus in the 1st round and then Ivan Dodig in the 2nd round before meeting Tsonga.
Janko Tipsarevic gets Raonic or Montanes in the 2nd round before a probable match-up with another home favorite, 9 seed Gilles Simon. Simon will face wild card Benjamin Balleret in the 1st round and then a probable match-up with Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in the 2nd before facing Tipsarevic.
Dark Horse: Nicolas Almagro
Almagro is in the weaker half of the draw with Rafa and will probably have to face a couple of fatigued players in Berlocq and Lopez or Andujar before a confrontation with Rafa in the quarters. While he would not be favored if Rafa is on his game, the constant knee problems have put up question marks for Nadal. Almagro has had some good results this year and is playing well, especially on clay. A semi final match up with Tsonga, Verdasco, Simon or Tipsarevic is also very winnable for Almagro. He is well rested and played top notch tennis last week for the Spanish on clay in Davis Cup against Austria. He might be set up for a good run here.
Djokovic d. Murray
Nadal d. Tsonga
Nadal d. Djokovic