The season’s first clay-court Masters 1000 event takes place in Monte Carlo between April 9-16. The tournament director has already revealed two big names who will fight for the title in the Principality, with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic confirming their participation.
Rafa and Novak have won 13 Monte Carlo titles in Monte Carlo since 2005, with the Spaniard lifting an incredible 11 trophies. Nadal or Djokovic are yet to win the title in the Principality since 2018, and they will be eager to change that in two months.
Rafa is the most accomplished player in Monte Carlo, securing 11 crowns between 2005 and 2018 and losing only three, twice to Novak. The Serb claimed titles in 2013 and 2015 before embracing a couple of early losses. Nadal skipped Monte Carlo last year due to an injury, and Djokovic came to his home event without form or matches.
Monte Carlo was Novak’s second tournament in 2022 following his Australian Open saga and a ban in Indian Wells and Miami. Djokovic faced Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round in Monte Carlo and experienced a 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 loss in two hours and 54 minutes.
Novak claimed the second set but had nothing more left in the tank, struggling in the decider and experiencing his earliest Masters 1000 loss since Miami 2018. Alejandro and Novak are regular sparing partners when the Serb is in Marbella, knowing each other well.
The Serb lost only a few games against the Spaniard in their previous two encounters in 2021 but could not find the rhythm in this one. Struggling to impose his strokes in windy conditions, Novak sprayed too many mistakes and hit the exit door earlier than he expected.
The Spaniard defended seven out of 11 break chances and delivered nine breaks from 20 opportunities to control the scoreboard in sets one and three. Novak fired 27 winners and 51 unforced errors, and Alejandro landed 37 winners and 34 mistakes for a much better ratio.
The Spaniard stayed in touch with the Serb in the shortest exchanges and took charge in the more advanced ones to emerge at the top. Djokovic gave his best in the second set and claimed it in the tie break to prolong the action.
However, he was far from that pace in the final set, struggling to match his rival and taking only one game. Nadal’s last appearance in Monte Carlo ended with a quarter-final defeat to Andrey Rublev in 2021.