While much has been said and written about Rafael Nadal’s enduring love affair with Paris, or Roland-Garros to be more precise, there’s another prestigious venue that has been similarly rewarding for the superstar Spaniard over the years.
The current World No.3 has won an unprecedented 11 titles at the Monte Carlo Masters, underlining a remarkable reign that can only be matched by his exploits in Paris.
So, as the tournament nears its April 11 kick-off, we look at players who can potentially challenge or even upset Nadal at Monte Carlo this year.
The defending champion at Monte Carlo in 2019, Fognini scored an emphatic 6-4, 6-2 win in the semifinals to bring an end to Nadal’s undisputed reign in the principality. Though the Spaniard had his revenge over the Italian in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, he will be wary of the Fognini threat going into the Masters this year.
The reigning Australian Open champion and World No.1 is a firm title contender wherever he plays. The Serb beat Nadal to the Monte Carlo title in 2013 and will fancy an encore this year.
Djokovic holds a slender head-to-head lead of 29-27 over the Spaniard and will derive a measure of belief out of it if he runs into him again.
An accomplished clay court player, Schwartzman picked up his first Tour title this year at the Argentina Open and will be one of the title favorites going into Monte Carlo Masters.
Though he fell in the final of the 2020 Italian Open to Novak Djokovic, the Argentine upset Nadal in the quarter-finals this year.
The current World No.5 stunned Nadal in the semifinal of Mutua Madrid Open in 2019 and could prove to be a handful for him again at Monte Carlo. Tsitsipas fell to Russian Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round last year and will be determined to make amends this time.
The current World Number 2 won back-to-back Masters titles in Paris and London last year and will have his eye on a third in Monte Carlo this year.
Medvedev fell to Serbian Dusan Lajovic in the semifinals in 2019 and will be hoping for a championship run this time. Nadal would do well to watch out for him.
Arguably the most improved player on the circuit after picking up five Tour titles in a breakthrough 2020 season, Rublev will arrive in Monte Carlo as one of the title favorites.
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With fierce groundstrokes and a vastly improved service game, the current World No.8 can challenge Nadal on his happy hunting ground.