Montecarlo: From Djokovic to Tsitsipas and Sinner, here are the favourites


Nole’s return and Sinner’s ambitions, Musetti and Berrettini’s attempt to get back on track, the form of Zverev and Tsitsipas, Medvedev on clay: the clay tournament that starts today has many reasons for interest despite the absence of the two Spaniards

Montecarlo will be missing the prince (Rafael Nadal, 11 titles) and designated heir Carlos Alcaraz. Even Uncle Toni’s (Auger-Aliassime) student, as if it were a form of respect given Rafa’s absence, will not compete in the first Masters 1000 on clay. On Tuesday they announced their losses one after the other within a few minutes. Massacre of big names, but having the scoreboard in hand was enough to realize the Principality tournament was worth watching.


In the meantime, where do we start again? The second in a row since Stefanos Tsitsipas’ victory. In 2022, the Greek won the final against clay-court Davidovich Fokina, this year he’s one to watch: he lost after the final at the Australian Open (only three games won between Rotterdam, Miami and Indian Wells) on the Paper He could be the protagonist of a semi-final between specialists against Casper Ruud. In the second round he meets one between Bonzi and Zapata Miralles, in the round of 16 possibly Coric or Jarry (or a qualifier), in the quarterfinals against Fritz as the top seed. There is room for further exaltation in the Principality.


However, the most awaited man is someone else, with all due respect to Stefanos. Novak Djokovic is already enjoying the newly discovered circuit with crowd events, such as dribbling on the minicourt with Jannik Sinner. Sun and good mood, but soon it’s time to “switch over” and switch to cannibal mode. When Nole is hungry – in recent months he’s been spotted at Wimbledon, the ATP Finals, the Australian Open – it’s even scarier. Tsitsipas is number 2, Djokovic is 1. The Greek is in the lower part, the Serb in the upper part and could find Sinner in the quarterfinals, maybe after playing against Musetti in the round of 16. Djoker will start challenging McDonald or a qualified/lucky loser (Nakashima forfeited); Lorenzo should instead win against Kecmanovic in the first round, then possibly against wildcard Vacherot or a qualifier.


Djokovic is chasing the trio in Monte Carlo: he has won the last two finals, 2015 against Berdych after the 2013 against Nadal. Beating Rafa in the Principality is the stuff of few: the Spaniard won 71 out of 75 matches at the tournament, 46 of them in a row between 2005 and the final he lost with Nole in 2013. Nadal’s monopoly is one of the reasons why Roger Federer never managed to win in Monte Carlo, with four final defeats (including three with Rafa between 2006 and 2008) as well as in Rome. A touch of history blows in the club nestled between sea and mountains in a unique setting. In which legendary challenges can arise at any time even without the Big 3: Unforgotten is the quarter-final match last year between Sinner and Zverev, with the German winning the tie-break of the third set.


After an excellent start to 2023, Jannik returns to the Principality with broad shoulders. He already has his eye on a hypothetical fourth against Djokovic, which he would achieve by beating one from Schwartzman or Goffin in the second round before eventually finding one from Hurkacz, Djere, Baez and Draper. For those who reach the semifinals from this side, the opponent could be one of Medvedev (devastating on hard courts but far from a lover of clay, he is Sonego’s possible opponent in the second round), Rune (he needs to rediscover continuity ) and Zverev, whose ascent route on sand may experience an important acceleration, perhaps directly from Montecarlo. In the upper part there are also Berrettini, but we have to go step by step: Cressy the first obstacle, then possibly one between Norrie and Cerundolo first, on paper, by Rune and one between Zverev and Medvedev. Treacherous and potentially uphill trail. In short: nothing but little interest, even without Nadal and Alcaraz there is no shortage of reasons to follow the first Masters 1000 on clay. It starts on Sunday with a little sample (Coric-Jarry, Huesler-Munar and Hurkacz-Djere), on Monday things get serious.

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