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Monte-Carlo Masters Preview





April 15, 2012



2012 Daily Tennis News Wire -
Men's Look Forward: Monte Carlo
The question at Monte Carlo is always, "Who's Missing?"

Back when it was a required event, Monte Carlo was always the weakest of the Masters, simply because it was right at the start of the clay season. Ironically, being demoted to optional hasn't really hurt the field -- if anything, it's given Monte Carlo a better advertising point. Instead of being the weakest of the Masters, it can now boast of being the strongest optional event in the calendar. This year, that translates into having seven of the top eight players in the world.

Unfortunately, the one who is missing is Roger Federer, and that produces a badly unbalanced draw. This being clay, it is obvious that the top four seeds, in the absence of Federer, should be Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and David Ferrer. But Ferrer's ranking is down to #6, so the actual Top Four seeds are Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Which gives an incredibly Djokovic-unfriendly draw: He could face #5 Ferrer in the quarterfinal and #3 Murray in the semifinal. Whereas Nadal's semifinal opponent is Tsonga. That's assuming Nadal makes it that far. He was, of course, unable to finish at Miami.

The other top seeds are #6 Tomas Berdych, who is in Murray's quarter; #7 Janko Tipsarevic, who is in Tsonga's, and #8 Nicolas Almagro, who is in Nadal's.

If you noticed some names missing between Tipsarevic and Almagro, you're right. Mardy Fish, John Isner, and Juan Martin del Potro are all ranked ahead of Almagro but have elected to skip the event.

The top eight seeds all have byes. The remaining seeds, who do not have byes, are #9 Gilles Simon, #10 Feliciano Lopez, #11 Juan Monaco, #12 Kei Nishikori, #13 Fernando Verdasco, #14 Florian Mayer, #15 Jurgen Melzer, and #16 Alexandr Dolgopolov. That means we have, in all, 14 of the Top Twenty. Missing, in addition to Federer, Fish, Isner, and del Potro are Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet, both of whom are hurting.

Which doesn't mean that the seeds can expect to have it easy. Djokovic's opening round should be easy (perhaps a slight offset for what comes after), but Dolgopolov opens against Juan Ignacio Chela, with Bernard Tomic perhaps to follow. Ferrer will start against Kevin Anderson or Thomaz Bellucci. Murray will almost certainly start against Viktor Troicki. Nishikori opens against Albert Ramos, who will be tired but who has been playing well. Berdych's first opponent could be Marin Cilic. Tipsarevic may start against Milos Raonic. Verdasco could face Ivan Ljubicic in the second round -- and Ljubicic is playing his last event, so he may be specially motivated. Lopez opens against Stanislas Wawrinka. And Nadal has Radek Stepanek in his section.

The Rankings

This is another week of schedule shift. Monte Carlo came off last week; this week, we take off Barcelona. Rafael Nadal was last year's Barcelona champion, over David Ferrer; semifinalists were Ivan Dodig and Nicolas Almagro; Gael Monfils, Feliciano Lopez, Jurgen Melzer, and Juan Carlos Ferrero were the quarterfinalists.

With Nadal losing points and Djokovic losing none, that means Djokovic is safe at #1. But if we've done everything right, there is actually a chance that Nadal could lose #2. He has only a 180 point lead on Roger Federer, with 500 points to defend. So if he loses in the quarterfinal or earlier, he will fall to #3.

No doubt he'll consider it another argument for two year rankings if he does....

He might even be #4, if he goes out early and Andy Murray wins Monte Carlo. But odds are that Murray will remain at #4. He certainly will not fall. With David Ferrer so far back, it is nearly certain that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will stay #5. Indeed, Ferrer could fall to #7, behind Tomas Berdych.

Janko Tipsarevic has more than a 600 point lead on Nicolas Almagro, the next active player, so he is guaranteed to stay Top Ten and will keep the #8 ranking unless Almagro wins the title. Odds are that John Isner and Mardy Fish will continue to occupy the final Top Ten spots, although Almagro and Gilles Simon have theoretical chances.

Juan Carlos Ferrer appears bound out of the Top Fifty; Ivan Dodig may end up not that much above #100.


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