The draw for the first claycourt Masters tournament of the season was released a while ago. There are some entertaining match-ups right from the word go at the Monte Carlo Masters, which is going to commence on Monday.
Let's look at the players in both the top and bottom halves of the draw.
Novak Djokovic, Gael Monfils, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas are present in the top half of the draw while Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori find themselves in the bottom half.
Coming to the top half, French players Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could face each other in the second round of the tournament. It will be a match to remember for the French crowd if both the players beat their respective first round opponents.
The winner of this match will face Djokovic in the third round. The second round opponent of the Serb will either be Philipp Kohlschreiber or Thanasi Kokkinakkis.
Another interesting match-up will be between Tsistsipas and Daniil Medvedev in the third round . These two players didn't quite enjoy each other's company during the 2018 Indian Wells tournament, and there could be fireworks again if they meet in Monte Carlo.
If there are no surprise exits, Djokovic and Tsitsipas will face each other in the quarterfinal. Tsitsipas won their first encounter, in the third round of the 2018 Rogers Cup, so he'd go into that potential match with plenty of confidence.
In the second quarter of the top half, the fourth seed Thiem seems to have an easy run till the quarters if he plays his natural claycourt game. There are no potential threats to the Austrian except for Kyle Edmund or David Goffin in the third round.
The bottom half is much more exciting than the top half as there are some fascinating potential match-ups. In all likelihood, Nadal will face fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the second round itself.
If Nadal gets past this hurdle, there would be a threat waiting for him in the form of Denis Shapovalov or Grigor Dimitrov in the third round. Even in the quarters, Nadal could face a tough opponent like Stan Wawrinka or Marin Cilic.
For someone who is recouping from a knee injury, the draw seems to be pretty harsh on the 11-time Monte Carlo champion.
In the top quarter of the bottom half, last year's runner-up Kei Nishikori will probably face Fernando Verdasco in the second round.
Another Frenchman Gilles Simon could face the Italian thunder Fabio Fognini for a place in the third round. This is an interesting match-up as it will be a display of variety vs discipline on the court.
Felix Auger-Aliassime, the young Canadian who stormed into the ATP top 50 a couple of weeks ago, might face Alexander Zverev in the second round. And considering the form that Zverev is in right now, Auger-Aliassime could possibly come out as the winner.
Whoever wins that match could face either Fognini or Simon for a place in the quarter-finals of the tournament.
Projected quarter-final matches:
1) Novak Djokovic vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
2) Dominic Thiem vs Nikoloz Basilashvilli
3) Felix Auger-Aliassime vs Kei Nishikori
4) Stan Wawrinka vs Rafael Nadal
1) Novak Djokovic vs Dominic Thiem
2) Rafael Nadal vs Felix Auger-Aliassime
1) Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic
These results could change a lot, depending on who strikes form on a given day. It would be interesting to see how far these players can go, especially Auger-Aliassime. If at all he faces Nadal in the semi-finals, it could be a match to remember.
For the Spaniard, it is going to be a litmus test as this tournament will likely determine how the rest of the claycourt season goes for him.