We have the first clay masters event coming up next week with the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in Monte-Carlo, Monaco with 1000 ranking points awarded to the champion of the event. It has attracted a stellar field including defending champion, French Open champion and US Open champion Rafael Nadal, Australian Open finalist and Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic, twenty-year-old young gun Alexander Zverev and eight-time title winner Grigor Dimitrov.
Rafael Nadal (1) v Bye
Aljaz Bedene v Qualifier
Thanasi Kokkinakis (WC) v Karen Khachanov
Gilles Simon (WC) v Adrian Mannarino (16)
We have the top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal sitting atop the draw and he has a very winnable section but he could vulnerable early on considering he has not played a lot since getting injured in Melbourne despite looking good in Davis Cup last week. He opens against either a qualifier of Aljaz Bedene and even though the latter is a considerable clay courter, he will most likely be no match for Nadal. In the other half of this top section, we have one of the highlight first-round matches of this event with wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis taking on Karen Khachanov. This will be very interesting as both can be dangerous at any event but I would give the edge to Kokkinakis because he has had bigger results recently and will be eager to make the most of this wildcard opportunity. The other first round is an all-French encounter with wildcard Gilles Simon against sixteenth seed Adrian Mannarino. This is another toss-up because both have some clay-court pedigree and are really solid players but I would just give the edge to Mannarino because he is in the better form to stay out there and battle if need be. If he did get through that, he could struggle against the aggressive Kokkinakis and an upset would be on the cards. Ultimately, I think that Nadal will be too strong for any of them on clay and he will reach the quarterfinals after a win over Kokkinakis in the third round, which would still be a good result for the wildcard.
Novak Djokovic (9) v Qualifier
Borna Coric v Julien Benneteau
Andrey Rublev v Robin Haase
Bye v Dominic Thiem (5)
This is a very interesting section of the draw because the two seeds in here both have question marks surrounding them and could have some challenging unseeded players in their paths. The man at the top of this section is the ninth is Novak Djokovic and he has been having a lot of struggles this year to rediscover his mojo and start winning matches again. He does have a qualifier in the first round but then in the second round, he could face Borna Coric, who has been in excellent form and would be primed for the upset. We then have someone you always have to highlight on clay at the bottom of this section with Dominic Thiem but he has injury concerns coming into this event. That could trouble him in his first match as he is faced with a potential second round against Andrey Rublev or Robin Haase who both have experience in getting big wins but if Thiem is able to move well enough, I would still have him coming through that match. I do not think that either of the seeds is in good enough form to go on a good run here so I have picked Coric to continue his good form from the Sunshine Double and reach the quarterfinals with a third-round win over Thiem.
Grigor Dimitrov (4) v Bye
Filip Krajanovic v Paolo Lorenzi
Tennys Sandgren v Philipp Kohlschreiber
Jared Donaldson v Albert Ramos-Vinolas (15)
This section of the draw is headlined by the fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov and even though he has not been in the best form recently, this is a very winnable draw for him. His second round is relatively straightforward with either Filip Krajanovic or Paolo Lorenzi, who both can have games that Dimitrov can overpower but then in the third round, he could face some adversity. In the bottom half of this section, we have quite a few unseeded players who could make it to the third round considering that Albert Ramos-Vinolas has been in terrible form recently and has some tricky unseeded players in his early rounds. I would be looking at either Tennys Sandgren or Philipp Kohlschreiber, but I would have to give the edge to the German because Sandgren is currently in the final of an event in Houston so Kohlschreiber will be feeling that bit fresher coming here. Jared Donaldson would also be in with a shout but I have not seen too much on clay from him to say that he could go on a deep run here. I am going with a bit of a surprising pick for this section with Philipp Kohlschreiber reaching the third round with a third-round win over Dimitrov.
Roberto Bautista Agut (11) v Peter Gojowczyk
Benoit Paire v Feliciano Lopez
Denis Shapovalov v Qualifier
Bye v David Goffin (6)
This is the final section of the top half of this Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters draw and it is one of the more loaded sections with most of the men in good form coming into the event. Up the top is Roberto Bautista Agut and he has an incredibly tough draw with the in-form Peter Gojowczyk and then either Benoit Paire or Feliciano Lopez who are both very good clay-courters. I think that who will make it out of those four is a real toss-up but I would just go with Bautista Agut because he is the seed and will go in with that bit of extra confidence. Then down the bottom of this section, we have the sixth seed, David Goffin but he also comes in with some injury concerns surrounding his eye and he has a very difficult potential second round with Denis Shapovalov. I would be looking for the Canadian to go on a run here because his game translates on most surfaces and with his quick style game and Goffin’s eye issue it could be a big upset for him. I will be going for another unseeded player to make it out of this section with Shapovalov reaching the quarterfinals after a win over the exhausted Bautista Agut, who could have a very tough first two rounds.
Lucas Pouille (7) v Bye
Mischa Zverev v Felix Auger Aliassime (WC)
Qualifier v Richard Gasquet
Guido Pella v Diego Schwartzman (10)
This is a very fun section of the draw with quite a few players with alternative game styles that would be exciting to watch. Up the top of the draw is Pouille, who can play on clay and has gone deep at this event before and he could have an interesting second round with young hotshot Felix Auger Aliassime. That young wildcard would have to go through Mischa Zverev first but his game does not translate to clay very well so it is a winnable match. On the other half of this section, we have an all-Argentinian first round between Guido Pella and Diego Schwartzman, who are both good clay court players but I would give the edge to the tenth seed because his game is more solid overall and has had better results here. He could face Richard Gasquet in the second round and the Frenchman is in good form after reaching the semifinals in Marrakech so that could be a tight match. I would actually go for Gasquet to get the upset in that match because I think that the explosiveness of his game can just overpower the workmanlike style of Schwartzman. I am going with the highest seed in this section Pouille to reach the quarterfinals after getting a third-round win over Gasquet.
Fabio Fognini (13) v Qualifier
Yuichi Sugita v Jan-Lennard Struff
Qualifier v Gilles Muller
Bye v Alexander Zverev (3)
This is one of the weaker sections of the draw because, despite some notable names in there, it still has a clear favourite to reach the quarterfinals. That favourite is down the bottom of the section with Alexander Zverev, who is in reasonable form and has posted good results on clay before. His opening match should be quite straightforward as he has Gilles Muller, who has his major weapon of the serve neutralised on the clay courts, or a qualifier. Then up the top of the section, we have Fabio Fognini and he can get hot and go on a run, especially on the clay courts, but I still think Zverev would have the advantage unless Fognini is in top form. He has a qualifier in the first round and then either Yuichi Sugita or Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round and both of these men have had good results in the past but I do not think they have big enough weapons or are consistent enough to go on a run here. For the purpose of this prediction, I am going to assume we won’t see peak Fognini and pick the third seed Zverev to make his first quarterfinal in Monte-Carlo with a third-round win over Fognini.
Pablo Carreno Busta (8) v Bye
Kyle Edmund v Alexandr Dolgopolov
Marton Fucsovivcs v Daniil Medvedev
Kei Nishikori v Tomas Berdych (12)
This is probably the most loaded section of the draw with many of the unseeded players having shots at going on a run and to top that off, it is headlined by a strong seed. That seed is at the top of the section with Pablo Carreno Busta, who is just really solid and will not lose to players ranked lower than him very often. He could do just that however in his first match with an almost unfair second round against either Kyle Edmund or Alexandr Dolgopolov. Both of these two love the clay but I would say that Edmund will get through that match due to the injury problems Dolgopolov has been struggling with and then I would pick Edmund to cause the upset over Carreno Busta because of how deadly his forehand is on clay. Then down the bottom of this section, we have two cracking first round match-ups with Kei Nishikori taking on Tomas Berdych and Marton Fucsovics facing Daniil Medvedev. I would say the better match is the Nishikori one and I will pick the Japanese star to get through that match because he is match fit enough now since coming back from his injury and Berdych is vulnerable on clay. I think that Nishikori will meet Medvedev in the second round because the Russian has been playing quite well recently and will be full of confidence. Despite the big names down the bottom of this section, I still have to go with Edmund making it out of here with a third-round win over Nishikori.
Milos Raonic (14) v Lucas Catarina (WC)
Damir Dzhumur v Qualifier
Fernando Verdasco v Pablo Cuevas
Bye v Marin Cilic (2)
This is another loaded section of the draw with a few of the unseeded players having really good clay pedigree and the experience against the biggest names. Up the top of the draw is Milos Raonic, who has been gifted with one of the easier first rounds, but then he has a potential second round with Damir Dzhumur who does have the kind of game to beat Raonic so it is not the easiest of paths for the Canadian. Then down the bottom, we have the second seed Marin Cilic and he is average on clay but I would not be surprised if he failed to win a match here. This is because of the strength of either of his second round opponents with Fernando Verdasco or Pablo Cuevas, who both love the clay. Their records at this event are impressive with Verdasco being a former finalist and Cuevas scoring a big win over Wawrinka here but in the first round match, I have to give the slight edge to Verdasco based on recent form. Then I will also pick the tour veteran Spaniard to score the upset win over Cilic before using his clay court prowess to make the quarterfinals with a third round win over Damir Dzumhur.
Rafael Nadal (1) defeats Borna Coric
Philipp Kohlschreiber defeats Denis Shapovalov
Alexander Zverev (3) defeats Lucas Pouille (7)
Kyle Edmund defeats Fernando Verdasco
Rafael Nadal (1) defeats Philipp Kohlschreiber
Alexander Zverev (3) defeats Kyle Edmund
Rafael Nadal (1) defeats Alexander Zverev (3)