Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the latest few years in Monaco.
Welcome to another week of no tennis played and us looking back at what the tennis authorities decided to do.
In a normal and sane world, the tennis world would have stopped in Marrakech this coming week for the Grand Prix Hassan II before moving to the big prize of clay in Monaco, the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.
Instead of that, we’re stuck with commenting on yet another decision from the tennis powers that be of suspending play. The big scoop over the past seven days is the fact that the 2020 edition of Wimbledon has been cancelled. There are some who will say that this is the biggest domino yet to have fallen due to this worldwide pandemic and, sure there is some truth to that, but ultimately a domino is just a domino. There are just so many ways to explain that a tennis tournament has been postponed, suspended or cancelled, even one as bathed in history, tradition and significance as Wimbledon, you know?
In any case, we’re all on our own in this, alone and together, so we can make the rules as we want to. And this week, we’re deciding to look at a few highlights of recent editions of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. It’s probably a week too early since the 2020 edition of the event was slated to start a week from today, but that’s presuming that everything is right in our world—which it most certainly isn’t.
The Fabio Fognini triumph
The wily Italian’s triumph last year in Monaco was what, the most shocking win of the past decade? Fabio Fognini is by no means a slouch and has had a truly remarkable career—but men’s tennis has crowned its fair number of veterans pros with remarkable careers, but not all of them have managed to nab a Monte-Carlo singles title.
The truly craziest thing about Fognini’s 2019 win wasn’t how unexpected it was. It’s that he captured it while beating three top 10 players, including a resounding, 6-4 and 6-2 win over Rafael Nadal.
The rare Rafael Nadal drought
Speaking of the Mallorcan clay court devil… The 33-year-old, you might have heard, has been notably prolific in Monaco throughout his career, grabbing no fewer than eight titles in a row from 2005 to 2012 in Monte-Carlo.
But then a funny thing happened when the King of Clay, like, completely stopped winning. From 2013 through 2015, Nadal competed in Monaco three times and, thrice, couldn’t wrap things up, bowing down in the final, fourth round and final. This might not feel like much for most of us but for a champion like Nadal to fail at an event he had absolutely owned all these years is especially newsworthy.
Novak Djokovic, king of clay if only for a day
One of the main reasons behind Nadal’s setbacks during those years has been the Serb’s presence. The great Novak Djokovic has two Monte-Carlo titles and, both times, he overcame Nadal to get the big trophy. You what they say about if you want to be the best you need to beat the best? Yeah, that.
Stanislas Wawrinka goes supernova
All the way back in 2014, Stanislas Wawrinka had finally put it all together and was in the middle of enjoying what remains still probably the single best season of his career. After a career-altering title in Melbourne at the Australian Open, Stan the Man slowly emerged as the foremost Swiss Guy on the ATP.
Then in April of that year in Monaco, Wawrinka took the rest of the clay-court specialists, including an in-form David Ferrer who had played the match of his life to defeat Nadal the round prior, to the woodshed. Very rarely, if ever, has men’s tennis been more beautiful than the sight of Wawrinka’s backhand with the gorgeous Monte-Carlo neighbourhood acting as the backdrop.
Where is Roger Federer?
You look at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters overview page and one name is definitely missing from the previous winners. And we don’t mind one bit.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG