All eyes will be on Rafael Nadal at the Monte-Carlo Country Club next week, when he begins the ground campaign for the record 12th crown of Rolex’s Monte-Carlo Masters.
For the past 15 years, the Spanish superstar has largely dominated every spring swing in Europe, and that’s in the Principality where, more often than not, he has given a signal to his rivals early on. Nadal has won 71 of his 76 matches in Monte Carlo, including the Open Era a record eight consecutive titles from 2005 to 2012 and a further three crowns from 2016 to 2018.
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Ahead of the 2021 Monte-Carlo Roters Masters, which begins on Sunday, ATPTour.com is studying five candidates who could pose a threat to Nadal’s hopes of winning the 36th ATP Masters 1000 trophy.
Novak Djokovic – The best performance in Monte Carlo: champion in 2013 and 2015
Memories of how quickly Nadal dismantled the World No. 1 match in the 2020 Roland Garros final may last, but Monte-Carlo resident Djokovic is also notoriously strong in the Principality. The Serbian superstar picked up the titles in 2013 and 2015, when she defeated Nadal in the finals and semifinals, respectively, and entered this year’s edition rested after winning the record ninth Australian Open title in February.
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Djokovic and Nadal have met 25 times on clay in their legendary 56-match ATP Head2Head rivalry, which Djokovic leads 29-27, but Nadal has an 18-7 advantage in their red clashes, which includes four matches in Monte Carlo. Nadal, who beat Djokovic in the 2009 and 2012 Monte-Carlo finals, has won the last four clay court matches (2017 Madrid, 2018 and 2019 Rome and 2020 Roland Garros).
If the couple meets in the Monte Carlo final on April 18, they will both be close to top form, and such a match will come down to a small margin. Twelve of their 25 matches on clay come with a trophy on the line (Nadal leads 8-4).
Djokovic v. Nadal in Monte Carlo
|2009||Finally||Nadal 6-3, 2-6, 6-1|
|2012||Finally||Nadal 6-3, 6-1|
|2013||Finally||Djokovic 6-2, 7-6 (1)|
|2015||Semifinals||Djokovic 6-3, 6-3|
Daniil Medvedev – Best performance in Monte Carlo: semifinals 2019
With a career record of 10-18 (.357) on red dirt, it can be said that Medvedev has not yet found his clay feet. But the Russian, who is also staying in Monte Carlo, proved by defeating Djokovic on his way to the semifinals in 2019, that he is capable of strong performances on the surface. While Nadal leads Medvedev 3-1 in their ATP Head2Head series, the pair have never met on clay courts before.
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World No. 2 Medvedev will surely be confident if he faces Nadal in Monte Carlo, where he trains regularly, winning the last 10 matches in 2020 and the first 10 matches in 2021, a series that included 12 wins against eight different Top 10 opponents. The 25-year-old defeated Nadal 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the semifinals of the Nitto ATP Finals in 2020. Medvedev started the season 17-3, including helping Russia win the ATP Cup crown. He continued until the final of the Australian Open (from Djokovic) and lifted his 10th title on the ATP tour at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille (u. Herbert).
Stefanos Tsitsipas – best performance in Monte Carlo: third round 2019
The Greek star returned from two sets of love against Nadal in a 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5 quarterfinal victory at the Australian Open in February, which represented his first victory over the Spaniard from the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open 2019. That day at the red dirt, Tsitsipas won 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 and the 22-year-old might like the chances of beating Nadal again, so early in the clay swing, if opportunity points in Monte Carlo.
Read: Tsitsipas completes epic return to Melbourne
Tsitsipas has been in strong form so far this season, collecting a 17-5 record, which includes a semi-final run in Melbourne Park (from Medvedev) and a final appearance at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentation from HSBC (from to Zverev). Tsitsipas, who have 1-3 results in the ATP Tour final on clay, lost their last match on clay to Nadal 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2019
Diego Schwartzman – Best performance in Monte Carlo: 2017 quarterfinals
The Argentine, who will play in Monte Carlo for the fifth time next week, will target his memories of Nadal’s victory on the way to his first Masters 1000 final in September last year at the BNL d’Italia International. Schwartzman entered Rome with a 0-9 record against Nadal, but kept his nerves for a 6-2, 7-5 triumph in the quarterfinals.
Read and watch: Schwartzman stuns Nadal in Rome
The 28-year-old Schwartzman defeated Dominic Thiem in five hours and eight minutes to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal at Roland Garros, where Nadal avenged his 6-3, 6-3, 7- 6 defeat (0) in Rome. victory. Schwartzman, who holds 3-3 records in the slag final, picked up the Argentina Open trophy in Buenos Aires (u. Cerundolo) last month.
Fabio Fognini – Best Performance in Monte Carlo: Champion 2019
At his best, the 33-year-old Italian can beat anyone, especially on clay, the surface on which he recorded nine of his 15 Top 10 victories. World No. 18 Fognini, who will try to keep the crown of the 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters next week, will not be afraid of Nadal, winning three of nine matches on the red background.
Read and watch: Fognini defeated Nadal in the semifinals of Monte Carlo 2019
In 2015, Fognini twice beat Nadal on clay at the Rio Open presented in the semifinals of Clara and the third round of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. In his emotional race to the biggest title of his career two years ago, Fognini recorded a shocking 6-4, 6-2 victory in the 2019 Monte Carlo semifinals. Nadal holds the lead, 13-3 in their ATP Head2Head series, two months after beating Fognini 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the third round of the Australian Open.