Welcome to the clay court season, a part of the calendar where a whole lot happens in a matter of just a few weeks.
For us North American folks, the moment that we start seeing the red clay also usually coincides with the return of our green grass, with snow finally relegated to our nightmares and unfortunate situations.
This season has traditionally been the rock upon which Rafael Nadal has built his impressive empire, as he’s made it a habit of winning just about every clay court tournament, but there have been little chinks in his armor in years past.
Never has this been more obvious than in this 2015 season, as King Rafa’s confidence is at rock bottom. Will a return to his old kingdom cure all ills, or will the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters crown a different champion for the third season in a row?
Yes. Yes, I believe so, that the 2015 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters will crown a non-Nadal champion for the third year in a row. It’s all yours, Mr. Novak Djokovic. With the way that the Serb is currently playing, his draw seems entirely inconsequential so why not throw up a prayer and predict that Mikhail Youzhny might join him in the quarterfinals? It will not matter anyway.
Unthinkably, Nadal is seeded No. 3 in his old kingdom and his quest for his first title of the season will be difficult. In succession, he is slated to face Dominic Thiem, John Isner and, yep, his old pal David Ferrer in the quarterfinals, because making the quarterfinals is what Ferrer (almost) always does.
The main draw was kind to Tomas Berdych and Canadian Milos Raonic. Both have a potential match with a Spaniard (i.e. Roberto Bautista Agut for the former and Tommy Robredo for the latter) standing in the way of their place in the quarterfinals. I don’t foresee many problems; if they need a three-set win to make it, then so be it.
If you had asked me before the tournament to name the defending champion, I don’t believe I would have guessed Stanislas Wawrinka: this shows how much he’s relatively disappointed since winning the 2014 Australian Open. Or maybe it’s not right to say that he has disappointed? Maybe we just thought that the man would take the ATP World Tour by storm after Melbourne and then Monte-Carlo, but that was never in the works. Wawrinka is yet again a member of the Top 10; that’s what he’s mostly been during his career. Despite the few bigger wins to his name, nothing’s really changed.
But anyway, the final section of the draw has a few potential titanic matches, notably Fernando Verdasco and Grigor Dimitrov in the first round. Fabio Fognini, Jerzy Janowicz and Alexandr Dolgopolov also all could have success against the right opponents… except that Wawrinka and Roger Federer aren’t the right opponents. I see the two Swiss emerging unscathed from this section.
Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Mikhail Youzhny; Rafael Nadal over David Ferrer; Milos Raonic over Tomas Berdych; Stanislas Wawrinka over Roger Federer
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Rafael Nadal; Stanislas Wawrinka over Milos Raonic
Final: Novak Djokovic over Stanislas Wawrinka
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG