Monte Carlo Masters — the season's first clay-court Masters 1000 tournament — kicked off Sunday, April 15, with top tennis stars from across the globe in French city Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.
World number 2 Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka are some of the big names who have skipped the tournament. All eyes will be on Rafael Nadal, who is eyeing his 11th title on the red dirt of Monte Carlo.
Doubts had remained over his fitness after a recurring hip injury forced him out of Acapulco Open in February. Notably, Nadal has not completed a tournament since the Shanghai Master's in October last year. The 31-year-old had retired in the quarter-final of the Australian Open earlier this year due to injury concerns.
Monte Carlo gives me good memories: Nadal
Nonetheless, after leading Spain to Davis Cup 2018 semi-final earlier this month, Nadal seems to be prepared for his title defense in Monte Carlo. A good run on the clay-court swing of the ongoing season is necessary for the Spaniard to maintain his position on the top spot of ATP rankings.
Nadal though is not willing to think too far ahead as he revealed Sunday, April 15, that his aim is to complete the tournament in Monte Carlo.
"Being in Monte-Carlo always gives me the best feelings possible and good memories. When the time comes to play, I need to be at my best. This is my first event of the year, that I hope I can finish and I am excited about that... I always try to be very focused at the beginning of the tournament on what I'm doing. Every match I win is very important," Nadal said, as quoted by ATP's official website.
Nadal handed tough draw
The draw has not been kind to the comeback man as he finds himself in the half of the draw, which also has the likes of former world number one Novak Djokovic and last season's clay-court star Dominic Thiem.
Notably, the 16-time Grand Slam champion may face Thiem as early as in the quarter-final of the ongoing tournament.
Djokovic eyes return to winning ways
Meanwhile, world number 13 and ninth seed, Djokovic, will look to get back to winning ways after suffering first-round exits in Indian Wells and Monte Carlo.
Djokovic had recovered from an elbow injury earlier than expected and featured in the Sunshine tournaments. After not being able to make an impact on the hard-court, the former champion will be eager to set things right on the clay court.
Notably, Djokovic parted ways with coach Andre Agassi earlier this month while Radek Stepanek also followed the latter's way out of his coaching team.
Fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov and sixth seed David Goffin are also part of the first half of the draw.
Meanwhile, Australian Open 2018 runner-up Marin Cilic, seeded second, headlines the second half of the draw. Third seed Alexander Zverev, unseeded Kyle Edmund, and Denis Shapovalov are some of the young names, who can reach the final stages of the clay-court tournament.
How to watch Rafael Nadal matches at Monte Carlo Masters on TV, online
India: TV - Sony ESPN; Live stream: Sony Liv
UK: TV - Sky Sports; Live stream: Sky Go
US: Tennis Channel
France: France TV
Switzerland: SRG, Teleclub
Malaysia: Astro Supersport
Schedule of key first-round matches at Monte Carlo Masters 2018
(Monday, April 16)
- Kei Nishikori vs Tomas Berdych (12) - Not before 11 am local time, 2:30 pm IST
- Novak Djokovic (9) vs Dusan Lajovic - Not before 12 pm local time, 3:30 pm IST
For the daily schedule of Monte Carlo Masters, click here.