Monte Carlo’s turn, just before the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell | Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell

Monte Carlo’s turn, just before the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell

Although some first-round matches were already played yesterday, today is the official debut of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, the first major clay court tournament of the season. It means the return of the world number 1, Rafael Nadal, after three months out of competition. The title defender is the number 1 seed. Three other world top-five players, Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov, and a neighbour of the Monegasque Country Club, Serbian Novak Djokovic, are also in the draw.

Nadal, en route to his eleventh crown of this third Masters 1,000 of 2018 and in the week in which he equals legendary John McEnroe with 170, will make his debut against the winner of the match between Aljaf Bedene and Mirza Basic. The Majorcan has participated 15 times in this tournament, in four of them as leader of the ATP ranking. His win-loss record is 63-4.

The Monegasque tournament, one of the major events of the sport-social calendar, reaches its 122nd edition.

Djokovic has participated in Monte Carlo three times less than Nadal, and lifted the trophy twice. He returns to train under the orders of Marian Vajda and will have to overcome very serious contenders such as Borna Coric or Dominic Thiem.

Another comeback is Thiem, the second best player in the world on clay in 2017. He has won the Buenos Aires title this year, but an ankle injury in the third round of Indian Wells forced him to be away from the courts for more than a month. Last year he reached the final against Nadal, at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

The wildcards of the tournament are four tennis players from countries of three different continents: Thanasi Kokkinakis (Australia), Felix Auger-Aliassme (Canada), Lucas Catarina (Monaco) and Gilles Simon (France). The first two were already eliminated yesterday.

The Spanish participation is not as dense as in previous occasions. David Ferrer is not playing as he is awaiting the birth of his first child, and Guillermo García López and Marcel Granollers were eliminated yesterday in the last day of qualifying.  There are only six top-100 who will remain in the first round: Nadal vs Bedene or Basic, Ramos vs Donaldson, Bautista vs Gojowczyk, Lopez vs Paire, Carreño vs Edmund or Seppi and Verdasco vs Cuevas.