Saturday, 14 April 2012

ATP Monte-Carlo: Preview and Predictions

The men's clay court season well and truly kicks off this week in the most luxurious of settings in Monte-Carlo.  Here is my preview to the draw....

First projected quarter-final - Novak Djokovic (1) v David Ferrer (5)
Novak Djokovic returns to Monte-Carlo having skipped the tournament last year and will open his title bid against either Andreas Seppi or a qualifier.  His first projected seed is the flamboyant, Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third round, who faces a testing opener against clay-court veteran, Juan Ignacio Chela.  Dolgopolov struggled to find his form at this time in 2011 and I think he will fall early this year too.

David Ferrer faces several obstacles if he is to potentially meet Djokovic in the quarter-finals.  In the second round he will play either Thomasz Bellucci or Kevin Anderson; the former being an accomplished clay-courter, who made the semi-finals in Madrid last year.  In the third round, he could meet Juan Monaco who has hit a hot patch of form having reached the semi-finals of Miami and currently progressing to the same stage in this week's clay court tournament in Houston.  One thing you can never do is write off David Ferrer and I anticipate him to make the quarter-finals this week...

My Prediction - Djokovic v Ferrer

Novak Djokovic

Second projected quarter-final - Andy Murray (3) v Tomas Berdych (6)
Andy Murray started to show some promise last year on clay as he made his first ever semi-final at Roland Garros, losing out to eventual champion, Rafael Nadal.  Murray will open his campaign against either Viktor Troicki or Jean-Rene Lisnard.  His projected third round opponent is Jurgen Melzer who had a good run in Monte-Carlo last year, beating Roger Federer en route to a semi-final appearance.

Tomas Berdych could face a tough second round match with Marin Cilic, although the Croatian player has failed to find any form after recently returning from a lengthy injury.  In the third round he could play Kei Nishikori, although I think it is more likely to the in-form Spaniard, Albert Ramos, who is having a great season so far and has reached the final this week in Casablanca.

My Prediction - Murray v Berdych

Andy Murray

Third projected quarter-final - Janko Tipsarevic (7) v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (4)
Janko Tipsarevic is the number seven seed and faces a tough second round match with either Milos Raonic or Albert Montanes.  Raonic has enjoyed a solid start to 2012 and beat Tipsarevic in a marathon final in the first tournament of the year in Chennai.  I am not too sure how Raonic will fare on the clay so I would back Tipsarevic to win that one if they do play.  The winner is likely to play Mikhail Youzhny or Gilles Simon for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will open up against Philipp Kohlschreiber or a qualifier.  His third round opponent could be Fernando Verdasco, who had particular success at this tournament two years ago reaching the final, although has been gonig backwards in the last year or two.  Also of note in this section is Ivan Ljubicic who will retire at the end of this tournament; he plays Ivan Dodig in the first round.

My Prediction - Tipsarevic v Tsonga

Janko Tipsarevic

Fourth projected quarter-final - Nicolas Almagro (8) v Rafael Nadal (2)
This section is the weakest apart from the top two seeds who look set to meet in the quarter-finals.  Nicolas Almagro will play Carlos Berlocq or Potito Starace in the first round.  Stanislas Wawrinka and Feliciano Lopez will face off in an intriguing first round match with the winner potentially facing Almagro in the third round.  Pablo Andujar, who has reached the final in Casablanca this week could pose a threat too.

Rafael Nadal will play Radek Stepanek or Jarkko Nieminen in the second round before his first projected seed in Florian Mayer.  Mayer has had a poor season so far that has been blighted by injury so I would not be surprised to see a qualifier reach the third round in this section of the draw.

My Prediction - Almagro v Nadal

Rafael Nadal
Final Prediction - Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic
My quarter-final predictions are extremely lacking in imagination this week, but sometimes its the best way to go! This is always an exciting tournament and I believe we will see another Djokovic v Nadal showdown, which would be particularly exciting at Monte-Carlo for a number of reasons; Nadal has won seven consecutive titles, however Djokovic has held a significant edge over Nadal in the last year having won their last seven encounters including two wins on the clay in Madrid and Rome last year.  This would be a fascinating final and I think Nadal, who was extremely close to beating Djokovic in the Australian Open Final, will not let the Serb steal the glory in Monte-Carlo...

My full draw predictions for Monte-Carlo will be uploaded soon...

COMING UP - Reviews of all the action and predictions along the way for Monte-Carlo.  I am also preparing a bumper review article for the WTA season so far in 2012 so please stay tuned :-)

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