Monte-Carlo Masters Wednesday Preview: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic Play Their Opening Rounds - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Masters Wednesday Preview: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic Play Their Opening Rounds

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Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, together at a plaque ceremony this past Sunday (montecarlomasters.com)

With Daniil Medvedev withdrawn from the tournament due to a positive COVID test, Djokovic and Nadal are now the top two seeds.  They have combined to win 13 of the last 15 Monte-Carlo Masters titles.  Djokovic will face recent Miami Open finalist Jannik Sinner, while Nadal takes on Federico Delbonis, whose two ATP Titles have both come on clay.

 

Wednesday’s schedule is filled with intriguing second round matchups, though with rain in the forecast on Wednesday, completing the Order of Play could prove challenging.

Throughout the week, this preview will analyze the most prominent match of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the day’s schedule.  Wednesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jannik Sinner – Second on Court Rainier III

This will be the 19-year-old Italian’s first match against the 18-time Major champion.  And this will be Djokovic’s first match since winning his ninth Australian Open, as he chose to skip the Miami Open due to COVID restrictions.  Sinner took advantage of the absence of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer in Miami to reach his first Masters 1000 final.  That was only his third appearance at this level, and his first outside of Italy.  He’s now at a career-high ranking of 22nd in the world.

Djokovic is a two-time Monte-Carlo champion, but hasn’t won this event since 2015.  Shockingly, he’s just 6-4 since that time.  So Novak could be prone to an upset at an event where he’s struggled in recent years, and in his first match in nearly two months.  And Sinner knows how to beat top players on this surface: he defeated both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sascha Zverev last season.  But with the French Open on the horizon, I suspect Djokovic will be particularly motivated to get off to a good start this clay season.  After claiming the record for most weeks at No.1 from Roger Federer, he is now focusing all his efforts on preparing for the Majors.  And it would only be normal for Sinner to suffer a bit of a letdown coming off the best week of his career in Miami.

Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Federico Delbonis – Nadal is 71-5 in his career at this event, with 11 titles.  And he’s 4-0 against Delbonis, having claimed all nine sets they’ve contested.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – The 25-year-old Italian was both a singles and doubles champion last week in Cagliari, propelling him inside the top 30 for the first time.  Zverev has only played four matches on clay since July of 2019.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. Salvatore Caruso (Q) – Rublev went 10-2 during last year’s abbreviated clay court season.  All seven of Caruso’s Challenger and Futures titles have come on this surface.  In their only previous meeting, at last summer’s US Open, Rublev dropped only four games across three sets. Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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French Open Chief: Roger Federer Would have Won Multiple French Open Titles If It Wasn’t For Nadal

Guy Forget also predicts how far the 39-year-old could go in the draw this year.

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The decision by Roger Federer to play at the French Open is the most logical step ahead of Wimbledon, according to tournament director Guy Forget.

 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match on the surface since June 2019. Last year he missed most the season due to a right knee injury which required two surgical procedures, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. So far this year he has only played in one tournament which was at the Qatar Open where he reached the semi-finals.

Federer will return to the court next week at the Geneva Open in his native Switzerland. It is the only event he will play before heading to Roland Garros. An event he had only played in once out of the past five editions. Forget, who is a former top 10 player himself, believes the match play is exactly what Federer needs.

“That Roger comes to play Roland Garros seems logical to me. This will allow him to play, and especially to test himself. Clay is a surface that requires you to be precise in your movements. The better Federer is at Roland Garros, the better he will be at Wimbledon,” he told reporters earlier this week.

The Swiss Maestro has only won the French Open once in his career which was back in 2009. Although he has reached the final on four other occasions. It was at the 1999 French Open where he made his main draw debut in a major at the age of 17. Overall, 11 out of Federer’s 103 ATP titles have been won on the clay.

However, Forget believes Federer would have won many more French Open titles if it wasn’t for the formidable Rafael Nadal. A player who has won more ATP trophies on the dirt than any other player in history, including 13 at the French Open alone.

“If Rafael Nadal hadn’t existed Federer would have had at least 5 or 6 titles at Roland, I’m sure of that.” Forget commented.
“Regarding this edition, I think it can happen that he could go into the second week.” He added.

Federer has lost to Nadal in all six of their meetings at the French Open – four times in the final and twice in the semi-finals. He trails their overall head-to-head 16-24.

The French Open will get underway on May 30th.

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Nadal survives three-set marathon with Shapovalov in Rome

Rafael Nadal saved match points to edge out Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

The King of Clay needed three sets and over three hours to claim the win and avoid an upset.

 

Rafael Nadal needed three hours and 27 minutes to beat the Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 at the Italian Open in Rome hitting 29 winners while his counterpart hit 46 unforced errors in the loss.

To everyone’s surprise it was the world number 14 who came out with the faster start earning two breakpoints in the first service game of the match with a stunning forehand winner.

He would break to take an early 1-0 lead and continued to have momentum earning another break and the Spaniard found himself staring at 3-0 defecit.

At 4-1 the world number three would get one of the breaks back but it wasn’t enough as the Toronto native would break one more time at 5-3 on his fourth breakpoint of the game to take the first set.

Once again we saw some really strong play from the Canadian in the beginning of the second set we saw history repeat itself when the world number 14 held serve and get the early break this time with his powerful forehand.

Nadal was fighting to stay in the set and the match and managed to earn a breakpoint but it was quickly saved with a big ace from Shapovalov. The very next game the Canadian had a chance to get another break but this time the Spaniard would deny him the opportunity.

After the world number three held serve he went on the attack looking to go back on serve and after three chances would get the break back. He would end up winning five games in a row and would take the second set to send it to a decider.

The third set remained on serve until 2-1 when the Canadian had a chance to break and he would take to jump out to a 3-1 lead. The break didn’t hold as Nadal came storming back the very next game breaking the world number 14 to love and equaling the set at 3-3.

The set and the match would ultimately be decided by a tiebreaker and in that breaker is when the Spaniard would take over winning it 7-3 to book his spot in the quarterfinals.

He will next face either Alexander Zverev or Kei Nishikori on Friday for a spot in the semifinals.

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Novak Djokovic Moving Into A ‘Good Trajectory’ After Reaching Rome Quarter-Finals

Novak Djokovic admitted that he is on a good trajectory after reaching the last eight in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic (@atptour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has said that he is on a ‘good trajectory’ after moving into the Rome Quarter-Finals.

 

The world number one moved into the last eight in the Italian capital with a comfortable 6-2 6-1 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Despite being broken in the first game, Djokovic rallied back to break on five occasions as he cruised past the Erratic Spaniard.

After 1 hour and 11 minutes, Djokovic’s overall game was too much for Davidovich Fokina as the Serb progressed to his 15th quarter-final in Rome.

After the match in his on-court interview the top seed admitted he is on a good trajectory as he builds momentum towards Roland Garros, “I thought I played well,” Djokovic told the ATP website.

“He started well and broke my serve in the first game. I made some errors, but I managed to break back right away and establish the control and consistency on the court. I think from the back of the court I was just a bit more solid than him.

“He made some unforced errors and double faults in key moments, which obviously helped me get that necessary break forward. I thought I played better, at least 20 or 30 per cent better, than I did against Fritz a few days ago. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”

The real test for Djokovic will come tomorrow when he faces top 10 opposition in the last eight.

It will either be Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas or Madrid finalist and home favourite Matteo Berrettini next up for the world number one.

Djokovic was well aware of the form either of his possible opponents are in heading into tomorrow’s showdown, “My next match will be against a Top 10 player, so it is going to be a battle,” Djokovic explained.

“Both of these guys are in great form. Tsitsipas won Monte-Carlo and Berrettini is just coming off the final in Madrid. I am obviously going to do my best to win that match, whoever I play against.”

In the other result in Rome today, Reilly Opelka reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Aslan Karatsev.

The American hit 18 aces as he will now face Felix Auger-Aliassime or Federico Delbonis on Friday.

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