Will Rafael Nadal regain his Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2021? Daniil Medvedev might have other plans ...
Monte Carlo Masters 2021 Predictions
The European clay-court season starts in earnest at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, played in the idyllic surroundings of the Monte Carlo Country Club in the commune of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin bordering on Monaco.
A firm fixture in the schedule, the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters was unprecedentedly cancelled in 2020 due to the global health crisis but returns from 10-18 April 2021.
Rafael Nadal, who has won an extraordinary 11 titles, returns alongside defending champion Fabio Fognini, US Open champion Dominic Thiem and ATP Finals winner Daniil Medvedev.
Nadal to capture 12th title
If there was any doubt that Nadal is still the King of Clay, it was dispelled in 2020 when, despite an absurdly truncated European clay-court season and a French Open played in unusual autumnal conditions, Nadal won his thirteenth Roland Garros crown.
Nadal has begun the clay season with a title in Monte Carlo for 11 of the past 15 seasons and has an incredible 71-5 record at the Monte Carlo Country Club, with his only losses coming to Guillermo Coria in 2003, David Ferrer in 2014, Novak Djokovic in 2013 and 2015 and Fognini in the 2019 semifinals. Nadal’s age is advancing and injury is always a concern, but the Monte-Carlo Masters is one of those tournaments where his reign is most secure and he will be the favourite to win again in 2021.
Was Fognini’s win a fluke?
One wouldn’t necessarily go that far, with the temperamental Italian one of the most talented ballstrikers to come along in the past 20 years (when he can be bothered).
Fognini’s victory over Nadal in the semifinals in 2019 was his third on clay vs the Spaniard, but it was only his third appearance in a Masters 1000 Series semifinal despite veteran status, and he was incredibly fortunate to face Dusan Lajovic in the final instead of a more threatening and experienced opponent. In addition to a more or less constant catalogue of injuries, Fognini is too inconsistent to be realistically expected to get close to defending his title.
Djokovic to make it a hat-trick
Currently the all-time Masters 1000 Series title leader with 36, and the only man to have ever won all nine tournaments in his career, Djokovic triumphed at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2013 and 2015 but has not been past the quarterfinals since. The tournament seems to follow the ‘Sunshine Swing’ too closely for the Serb, who thrives much more at the Madrid and Rome Masters in May, and his last two defeats at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters have come to Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev, suggesting that more players are rising who can beat him in a best-of-three sets clay-court match.
A new Monte-Carlo Masters champion?
If there is to be a new name on the trophy at the Monte Carlo Country Club in 2021, it’s surely likely to be Thiem or Medvedev.
Neither man has yet won a Masters 1000 Series tournament on clay, but Thiem has established a superb record at the French Open, reaching the final in 2018-19, and the Austrian is now a Grand Slam champion, claiming the US Open title in 2020. Interestingly enough, the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters is the one clay-court Masters 1000 Series tournament at which he has yet to go past the quarterfinals, so perhaps the conditions do not suit him there as well as other events, but he remains a very potent force wherever tennis is being played on clay.
Medvedev’s biggest career achievements have come on hard courts, the surface on which he reached the US Open final and won Masters 1000 Series titles in Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris as well as going undefeated at the Nitto ATP Finals – and the Russian’s record at Roland Garros would certainly encourage you to believe he can’t play on clay. But he was a Barcelona Open finalist in 2019 and, moreover, made the semifinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas and then Djokovic to do it.
Tsitsipas is another player to look out for – he’s not yet done well in Monte Carlo, but the Greek was a French Open semifinalist in 2020 and has been a Madrid Masters finalist, beating Nadal there – although he might struggle to replicate the feat on the more traditional clay of the Monte Carlo Country Club. The powerful Andrey Rublev and the dogged Diego Schwartzman – also a French Open semifinalist in 2020 – are other players to look out for when the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters comes around.
Monte Carlo Masters Tips
Nadal is sure to be the favourite and it’s impossible at this juncture to argue that he shouldn’t be, with a record of 71-5. But defeat to Fognini in 2019 does demonstrate that it’s easier to beat Nadal on clay, over the best of three sets, than it used to be (although that’s still not saying very much), so there is perhaps some ground to back someone other than Nadal.
Djokovic is always a possibility, but the older he gets, the more focused Djokovic is on the majors (understandably) and the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters doesn’t seem like a huge priority for him any more – if he is going to play a loose match, that’s one of the places he might do it; Djokovic is also more vulnerable to defeat over the best of three sets than he used to be.
If there is going to be a new champion, you could do a lot worse than back Medvedev to be it. The Russian made a superb ending to what had been a fairly underwhelming 2020 season when he won the Paris Masters and ATP Finals, and although his career highlights have been on hard court so far, there’s no reason why his game can’t be very effective on clay – as he proved by beating Djokovic on his way to the semifinals at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2020. It would not be surprising to see him go further in 2021 and become the second new name in a row to be engraved on that historic trophy.
Monte Carlo 2020 tournament information
Name: Rolex Monte Carlo Masters
Location: Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Venue: Monte Carlo Country Club
Category: ATP Masters 1000 Series
Surface: Outdoor clay courts
Draw size: 52 singles/24 doubles
Most titles: Rafael Nadal (11)
Reigning champion: Fabio Fognini
Who are the best-performing players at the Monte Carlo Masters?
|Players||Years played||Titles||Finals||2019 result||Win-loss|
|Rafael Nadal||16||11 (2005-2012; 2016-2018)||1 (2013)||SF||71-5|
|Novak Djokovic||13||2 (2013, 2015)||2 (2009, 2012)||QF||34-11|
|Stan Wawrinka||11||1 (2014)||–||R2||21-10|
|Fabio Fognini||11||1 (2019)||–||Champion||17-10|
|Gael Monfils||10||–||1 (2016)||Absent||13-10|