Novak Djokovic rolls into town, returning after missing high-profile tournaments in March, and topping a solid field at the 2022 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Djokovic, the World Number One and top seed, gets a first round bye in Monte-Carlo. He then faces the winner of the Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Marcos Giron match.

With Covid-19 vaccine requirements lifted, Djokovic ratchets up excitement to the European clay season kickoff– much needed with the absences of Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini due to injuries.

That said, Djokovic lands in a a super-tough quarter of the Monte-Carlo draw: He could potentially face his occasional kryptonite Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round. Even more intriguing: A possible matchup between rising 18-year-old superstar Carlos Alcaraz and Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Stop the bus right now. Djokovic – Alcaraz. Against the backdrop of stunning Monte-Carlo. That is a matchup to circle, underline and highlight. The Spaniard could not be playing much better than he is right now, coming off his Masters 1000 victory in Miami. And Djokovic is not expected to be in top form due to the time off. That said, Novak is Novak. Who on this planet is keen to face him on a tennis court?

The second quarter features a stellar first-round contest between local resident Grigor Dimitrov and Nikoloz Basilashvili– good for fans but unlucky for those two top-flight players. Brit Cameron Norrie, Norway’s Casper Ruud and Hubert Hurkacz of Poland are the top seeds in this section. Ruud is recovering from wisdom teeth surgery and Hurkacz is dealing with a deep run and a tough disappointment at the hands of Alcaraz in Miami. Watch for the lefty Norrie to look fresh and ready to attack clay after some great experience on the surface in 2021.

The bottom half features Monte-Carlo defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger Aliassime and clay court stalwart Diego Schwartzman. If he’s healthy and feeling good, Tsitsipas could make a decent run in Monte-Carlo. He will feel at home and looks like he’s settling in well with his new and improved coaching situation. The surface in Monte-Carlo is one of the slower among the already-slow clay courts in Europe, and that gives Stef time to wind up that one-handed backhand.

The final quarter of the Monte-Carlo draw is the most up-in-the-Mediterranean air. Andrey Rublev and Jannik Sinner are young stars who have battled small injuries as well as questions about over-playing. Alexander Zverev is on strict probation and has an ATP investigation hanging over his head. Finally, 3-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka returns to action at the ATP level with a wildcard. At 37 years old, after years off with injuries, it’s unclear what Wawrinka can accomplish in this tournament.

Ultimately, the 2022 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters is all about the Djokovic return and that potential quarterfinal matchup with Alcaraz. Hype city. Knowing that Novak often emerges from time off feeling rested, healed and balanced, I expect him to play freely and with new motivation.

My players to watch: Djokovic, Norrie, Tsitsipas, Sinner
Finalists: Djokovic, Sinner
Winner: Djokovic


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