Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Defending champion Rafael Nadal could face a quarter-final clash with former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the 2018 Monte Carlo Masters.
The Spanish top seed is aiming to win his 11th title on the clay of the Monte Carlo Country Club, and his potential path to victory was revealed when the draw took place on Friday, per the ATP World Tour:
ATP World Tour @ATPWorldTour
The 2018 @ROLEXMCMASTERS draw. Who do you think will win the 🏆? https://t.co/2L92ppuewl
Ninth seed Djokovic could be Nadal’s key challenger on the way to glory—the Serb has won the tournament twice in 2013 and 2015—although he is still finding his way back to form after an injury.
He is far from the only challenger to the world No. 1, though, who has hardly been handed the kindest draw as Austria’s Dominic Thiem is also in his quarter.
The New York Times‘ Ben Rothenberg believes the world No. 7 could be a threat to Nadal:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
That Nadal-Thiem quarter could be an early metric of how much (if any) resistance Nadal will face on clay this year. https://t.co/MnrBBPa5D6
Here is the full list of seeds for the tournament:
1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
2. Marin Cilic (CRO)
3. Alexander Zverev (GER)
4. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)
5. Dominic Thiem (AUT)
6. David Goffin (BEL)
7. Lucas Pouille (FRA)
8. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)
9. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
10. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)
11. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)
12. Tomas Berdych (CZE)
13. Fabio Fognini (ITA)
14. Milos Raonic (CAN)
15. Albert Ramos Vinolas (ESP)
16. Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
Per TennisTV, perhaps the highlight of the opening round is Tomas Berdych’s clash against Kei Nishikori:
Tennis TV @TennisTV
Round 1 highlights from the #RolexMCMasters draw… 🇯🇵 Nishikori v Berdych 🇨🇿 🇦🇺 Kokkinakis v Khachanov 🇷🇺 🇷🇺 Rublev v Haase 🇳🇱 🇪🇸 Verdasco v Cuevas 🇺🇾
The 28-year-old Japanese star is a two-time French Open quarter-finalist and, despite currently being ranked No. 39 in the world, should provide 12th seed Berdych with a significant challenge.
Djokovic will have to produce some fireworks if he is to go all the way in Monaco this year.
Per BBC 5 live’s David Law, his route to the last eight is far from easy, and few would back him against Nadal at the moment given their respective form:
David Law @DavidLawTennis
1. Qualifier 2. Coric/Benneateau 3. Thiem Q. Nadal The likely road to the Monte Carlo semifinals for Novak Djokovic. Harsh.
Nadal has been utterly dominant at the Monte Carlo Masters during much of his career. He won it eight times in a row from 2005 and has also won the last two editions.
Barring injury, it would be a huge surprise were he not to make the final again in 2018.
He could meet second seed Marin Cilic to play for the title, but the Croatian’s route to the final looks tough.
A second-round meeting with either Fernando Verdasco or Pablo Cuevas—both experienced operators—is likely to be followed by a meeting with Milos Raonic.
Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta could then follow in the quarters before a semi-final against world No. 4 Alexander Zverev.