Where: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion: Rafael Nadal
Draw analysis: The top quarter of the draw features two of the most in-form players on the tour, in the shape of Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer. In the bottom half, Rafael Nadal has been given a favourable path to the final, as he looks to bounce back from injury.
Djokovic should easily progress to set up a blockbuster quarter-final against Ferrer. The number 1 seed will open against either Andreas Seppi or Victor Hanescu and the nearest seed is the out-of-form Alexandr Dolgopolov. In contrast, Ferrer has been handed draw. The Spaniard may have to beat both Kevin Anderson and the Houston champ Juan Monaco, if he is to meet Djokovic in the quarters.
Andy Murray’s section is not quite so hard, he won’t be underestimating the challenge of a second round clash with Viktor Troicki. Murray leads their head-to-head series 4-0, but their only clay-court meeting at last year’s French Open, resulted in a 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 five-set thriller. The fourth-ranked Scot, also has Jurgen Melzer and Tomas Berdych in his quarter of the draw.
Nadal has an easy start, before a probable quarter-final against Nicolas Almagro, who is currently in outstanding form and may pose problems for Rafa, should he still be struggling with injury.
The final quarter of the draw is very open, with Roger Federer out with an injury.Jo-Wilifried Tsonga is the fourth seed and has Janko Tipsarevic, Fernando Verdasco, Gilles Simon, Mikhail Youzhny, and Philipp Kohlschreiber in his section of the draw.
Possible first-round upsets:
Stanislas Wawrinka (1.57) v Feliciano Lopez (2.35) – Lopez has the edge in current form, but could be jaded after a semi-final appearance in Houston. Wawrinka should be fresh, having not played since a third-round Indian Wells loss to Simon. He might take a while to warm up, but the Swiss could cause problems For Lopez at a tournament where he reached the semis in 2011.
Albert Ramos (2.05) v Kei Nishikori (1.74) – Ramos was the runner-up in Casablanca, where he lost to two-time champion Pablo Andujar. The Spaniard is up to a career-high ranking of No. 42 in the world. Nishikori is not a clay-court specialist like Ramos and has been out of action since Miami.
Juan Ignacio Chela (1.94) v Alexandr Dolgopolov (1.82) – Dolgopolov is coming off a loss to Flavio Cipolla in his Casablanca opener and looks nowhere near ready for the clay-court season. Chela, on the other hand, has always been right at home on the red stuff.
Who’s Hot: Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Janko Tipsarevic, Nicolas Almagro, Juan Monaco, Kevin Anderson, Albert Ramos, Pablo Andujar
Who’s Cold: Fernando Verdasco, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Robin Haase, Donald Young, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Albert Montanes, Mikhail Youzhny, Ivan Ljubicic
Quarter-final predictions: Novak Djokovic over David Ferrer, Andy Murray over Tomas Berdych, Fernando Verdasco over Gilles Simon, and Rafael Nadal over Nicolas Almagro
Semi-finals: Djokovic over Murray and Nadal over Verdasco
Final: Djokovic over Nadal
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