Novak Djokovic will be looking for his third consecutive ATP 1000 title when he steps onto the clay courts for the first time this season at the Monte Carlo Masters. Aside from a retirement due to injury in Dubai, the world number one has gone unbeaten since the turn of the year, and looks a truly unstoppable force in the world of tennis. He now stands just one month away from the only grand slam that eludes him, the French Open, and victory in Monte Carlo would set him on the path to finally conquering Roland Garros. Djokovic is the reigning champion in Monte Carlo, and at decimal odds of 1.58, he is expected to defend his trophy.
The return to clay offers Rafael Nadal a chance to regain his peak form on his favoured surface. For twelve months now, Nadal has looked a shadow of the player he once was, but recently some improvements have been made. Considering that the Spaniard held the Monte Carlo crown for a remarkable eight consecutive years, it comes as no surprise that bookmakers regard him the second-favourite for this year’s tournament at 9.00 (odds which may prove to underestimate Nadal’s ability on clay).
The third-seed at Monte Carlo is French Open champion Stan Wawrinka (10.00), who tasted success in Monaco two years ago. He was the only man to overcome Djokovic in a major tournament last year, and if anybody can stop the Serb, it is the big-hitting Wawrinka. His compatriot Roger Federer will finally make his return from injury at the Monte Carlo Country Club. This will be the first time Federer has played competitive tennis since the Australian Open, and fans and pundits are not expecting the former world number one to come-back in spectacular fashion, hence odds of 11.00. Moreover, the Monte Carlo Masters is the only ATP 1000 event Federer is yet to win, and it looks unlikely that this will change in 2016 given the circumstances.
Like Federer, Andy Murray has also struggled in Monte Carlo over the years, and he only won his first clay court title last year. Couple this with Murray’s poor performances at Indian Wells and Miami, and it is hard to stake a claim for the Briton in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.
Last year’s finalist Tomas Berdych (29.00) is a resident of Monte Carlo, and always enjoys playing at his new-found home. Berdych took Djokovic into a deciding set in the 2015 final, however he is yet to reach the last two of any competition this season. Youngster Dominic Thiem on the other hand is playing the best tennis of his career, and already has two 2016 ATP tournament victories to his name. One of these came on sand in Buenos Aires where Thiem dethroned the “King of Clay” Nadal. The 22-year old is 26.00 to add the Monte Carlo Masters to his burgeoning list of achievements.
The annual Monte Carlo 1000 tournament has brought about few shocks over years, and with a determined and focused Djokovic set to begin his march to Roland Garros in Monaco, it is difficult to see this reality changing.