Monte Carlo Masters 2021: Men's singles draw analysis, preview & prediction

Rafael Nadal has lifted the Monte Carlo Masters crown a record 11 times in his career.
Rafael Nadal has lifted the Monte Carlo Masters crown a record 11 times in his career.

The ATP Tour heads to Monaco for the 114th edition of the Monte-Carlo Masters, which will commence on 11 April.

The Masters 1000 event marks its return to the tennis calendar after being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading the pack this year will be top seed Novak Djokovic and 11-time winner Rafael Nadal.

Defending champion Fabio Fognini and top names like Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev form a competitive field that will challenge Nadal and Djokovic for the title. With main draw action set to begin Monday, here's a look at the prospects of the top names in the fray.

Top half: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas set to be tested at every stage

Novak Djokovic is the top seed in this year's draw.
Novak Djokovic is the top seed in this year's draw.

Top-seeded players: [1] Novak Djokovic, [4] Stefanos Tsitsipas, [5] Alexander Zverev, [8] Matteo Berrettini

Expected semifinal: Novak Djokovic vs Stefanos Tsitsipas

Dark horse: Cristian Garin

Novak Djokovic enters the tournament in pursuit of a third Monte Carlo Masters crown but finds himself in one of the tougher sections of the draw. The top seed is likely to open his campaign against teenage phenomenon Jannik Sinner in what could be a highlight matchup in the second round.

The winner of that match could face the recently-crowned Miami Open champion Hubert Hurkacz, provided that the Pole can maneuver past the likes of Dan Evans and 2019 Monte Carlo Masters runner-up Dusan Lajovic.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, the other top-billed player in the half, finds himself in a similarly perilous situation. He will meet the winner of the match between Lorenzo Musetti and Aslan Karatsev and has seasoned clay-court players in Cristian Garin and Matteo Berrettini as potential opponents later in the tournament.

Tsitsipas hasn't had the best results leading up to the Monte-Carlo Masters. He will need to up the ante to make a mark in what seems to be an increasingly open-looking section of the draw.

Elsewhere, Marton Fucsovics will be eyeing an upset over Alexander Zverev in the round-of-32. The Hungarian has been in good form this season and a victory over the German could set him up for a deep run in the tournament.

Semifinal prediction: [1] Novak Djokovic vs [8] Matteo Berrettini

Bottom half: Rafael Nadal chases a historic 12th Monte Carlo crown

11-Time Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters Champion, Rafael Nadal
11-Time Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters Champion, Rafael Nadal

Top-seeded players: [2] Daniil Medvedev, [3] Rafael Nadal, [6] Andrey Rublev, [7] Diego Schwartzman

Expected semifinal: Rafael Nadal vs Daniil Medvedev

Dark horse: Taylor Fritz

Analysis: Eleven-time champion Rafael Nadal anchors the bottom half of the draw this year. The Spaniard, who holds an incredible 71-5 win-loss record in Monte Carlo, will open his campaign against either Adrian Mannarino or a qualifier.

The Spaniard's first real test is likely to be a potential third-round match against 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian, however, has to first find a way past the resurgent Jeremy Chardy, whom he could meet in the round-of-32.

The winner of the match between Taylor Fritz and Roberto Bautista Agut is likely to challenge Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals. All three men have had big results in 2021 and one can expect a couple of high-quality matches coming out of this section as well.

Diego Schwartzman and Daniil Medvedev have relatively simpler paths to the quarterfinals, but still have a few players that they will need to be wary of along the way. While clay-court specialists Casper Ruud and Pablo Carreno Busta crowd Schwartzman's section, Fognini and Dubai Open winner Nikoloz Basilashvili stand in Medvedev's path.

Schwartzman and Medvedev, though, should be able to see off the competition with relative ease.

Semifinal prediction: [3] Rafael Nadal vs [2] Daniil Medvedev

Notable first round matches

David Goffin vs Marin Cilic

Lorenzo Musetti vs Aslan Karatsev

Taylor Fritz vs Roberto Bautista Agut

Filip Krajanovic vs Nikoloz Basilashvili

Predicted final

Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal

Predicted champion

Rafael Nadal

What is the foot injury that has troubled Rafael Nadal over the years? Check here

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Edited by Jay Lokegaonkar
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