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Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters: official launcher of the clay court season

Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, in the Alpes-Maritimes, 5 kilometers from Monaco.

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Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters: official launcher of the clay court season

Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, in the Alpes-Maritimes, 5 kilometers from Monaco. While some privileged people are relaxing along Saint-Roman beach, a hundred meters further inland, between Boulevard de Larvotto and Avenue de France, a certain agitation reigns. Like every year, at the dawn of April, the Monte-Carlo Country Club welcomes the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters to its courts. As a symbol, the third Master 1000 of the season announces the launch of the clay court season. Certainly, some ATP 250 tournaments have already organized their competition on ocher, such as Rio or Buenos Aires, but Monte-Carlo is the one on which the best players in the world come to test themselves.

On the Rainier III court, named after the Monegasque sovereign who reigned over the principality from 1949 to 2005, the French public is never certain of being in the majority. The Monte-Carlo Country Club courts are located just one hour from Italy. Our transalpine neighbors, keen on the yellow ball, do not hesitate to cross the border between Menton and Grimaldi, to come and observe the elite of world tennis. A fairly logical choice for many northern Italian cities, much closer to Monte-Carlo than to the Master 1000 in Rome. Turin residents only need a 3.5 hour drive when a trip to Rome would take them more than 7 hours. The same goes for the Genoese with 2h15 compared to 6 hours, and Milan with 4 hours compared to 6 for the Italian capital.

In 2019, Rafael Nadal, particularly popular with the French public and idolized at Roland-Garros, experienced less favorable treatment in the south. During his semi-final against the Italian Fabio Fognini in 2019, the crowd lined up behind the sanguine Italian.

Over the last decade, few have managed to do the Monte-Carlo / Roland-Garros double. In fact, only Rafael Nadal, twice, achieved this feat in 2017 and 2018.

Several conditions can explain these variations. Beyond the 2 sets against 3 format at the French Open, the playing conditions vary. By setting down its suitcases in Roquebrune, the world circuit arrives from “hard” surface courts, and has not developed its reflexes for the demanding game of clay. The wind must also be taken into account. Less protected than Roland-Garros, the courts of the Monte Carlo Country Club push players to adapt to the wind, causing a game that is sometimes very rounded.

Monte Carlo has remained a particularly indecisive tournament in recent years. The last 3 winners of the tournament, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Fabio Fognini have never won another master 1000 in their career, just like the Frenchman Cédric Pioline, winner of the competition in 2000. Conversely, Monte-Carlo remains the only Master 1000 missing from the legend Roger Federer's record.

Monte-Carlo is now a fixture on the tennis calendar and among the best tournaments in the world. However, in 2007, a storm passed over the event. The ATP circuit wanted to reduce the number of Masters Series tournaments to better promote other competitions. The body then plans to downgrade the Hamburg, Rome and Monte-Carlo tournaments, in particular with the profile of the future Shanghai tournament. Chinese financial power had attracted the ATP, which then took steps to install its circuit in the Middle Kingdom.

Faced with this movement, 65 players signed a text to show their disagreement with the measure. Among them, the two figures of the time, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. “Monte-Carlo is a tournament that I really appreciate, which has perhaps half as many entries as others, but has a lot of weight historically” declared the Swiss, while the Manacor bull indicated that “ it would be very serious to affect these tournaments.”

The Monegasque organizers will even launch a complaint against the ATP, before reaching an agreement with the body. The deposition will be withdrawn, and the tournament will retain its prestigious rank until today.

This year, many uncertainties hang over the performances of the best in the world. Beaten in Indian Wells by the 123rd in the world Luca Nardi, and defeated by Sinner in Australia, Novak Djokovic is expected to turn the corner, he who has not won a single tournament in 2024. The tournament seems more cut out for the energy of Carlos Alcaraz or the power of Sinner and Rublev. Casper Ruud, finalist of the last two editions will also have his card to play. In terms of surprises, watch out for Alex De Minaur, coming off a very good season on hard courts (victory in Acapulco, final in Rotterdam), 5th in the Race, who can extend his good momentum.

On the French side, Ugo Humbert (seeded n°14) and Gaël Monfils are the French people most likely to shine on clay. Monf’ could even create the feat in the second round against Daniil Medvedev.

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