MONTE CARLO, April 14, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
The European clay-court season began in earnest at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters on Sunday, complete with cool (12º Celsius) temperatures and rain-filled skies. With a slate of four first-round main draw singles matches scheduled on the grounds of the Monte-Carlo Country Club, nestled in the Principality of Monaco that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, it was enough to whet a tennis fan’s appetite. The skies also opened up for a while and wet upon the red clay, too.
Ninth-seed Borna Coric of Croatia, competing in his fifth Monte-Carlo tournament and the only seeded player in action, christened play on Court Rainier III against Hubert Hurkacz of Poland with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 win to advance to the second round. Next, he will oppose either 556th-ranked Lucas Catarina of Monaco or 60th-ranked Jaume Munar of Spain, both wild cards.
While it took two hours and 52 minutes for the 13th-ranked Coric to improve his record to 7-0 in deciding sets this year, three different rain stoppages stretched the duration of the first match of the day to nearly five hours.
Coric and Hurkacz, both 22, split the first two sets before rain suspended play at 1:06 p.m. local time, after they had completed one hour and 51 minutes of play. The court remained covered for almost two hours before play resumed at 3:02 p.m. However, it was short lived as another rain delay forced the players off at 3:28 p.m., with Coric up a break and serving at 3-2. The 52nd-ranked Hurkacz, who was playing in his first Monte-Carlo, broke back as both players encountered difficulty in holding serve during the final set as the red clay played slow. Finally, after breaking Hurkacz for the fourth time, Coric served it out and won on his second match-point opportunity for his 10th victory of the season. He outpointed his opponent 108-107 by hitting 31 winners.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 14. April 2019
Meanwhile, 36th-ranked Stan Wawrinka, a five-time quarterfinalist who won Monte-Carlo in 2014, returned to Court Rainier III against Lucas Pouille of France. The 31st-ranked Frenchman has been struggled of late and was looking for his first win since reaching the Australian Open semifinals in January. It didn’t happen. Instead, the 34-year-old Swiss needed just 65 minutes to win 7-5, 6-3 for his 12th victory this season, and, next, will take on either 53rd-ranked Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia or No. 11 seed Marco Cecchinato of Italy.
“The beginning was a bit tough, I was hesitating, I was a bit slow, I was nervous and I was looking a little bit for the conditions,” said Wawrinka, as quoted by the ATP Tour website. “He took advantage, he broke me directly and then I started to play a little bit better. I started to know a bit more what I had to do. I broke back, he did one mistake and I did one good point and then suddenly the match turned. He felt under pressure, I started to play a bit better, more aggressive and I am happy with the win.”
Also, last year’s semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov, who has reached at the least the quarterfinals in three of his last six main-draw appearances at Monte-Carlo, advanced over 54th-ranked Matteo Berrettini of Italy, 7-5, 6-4, in one hour and 53 minutes. Next, the 29th-ranked Dimitrov will face either No. 15 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada or 45th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.
Finally, in a match-up of Brazilian clay-court champions, 34th-ranked Guido Pella of Argentina (who won the Brasil Open earlier this year) bested 32nd-ranked Laslo Djere of Serbia (winner of the Rio Open), 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4, in two hours and 25 minutes. Next, Pella will oppose No. 7 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia.
Seven advance from qualifying draw
While the main draw began play on Sunday, the qualifying draw concluded and three seeds advanced into the main draw while three seeds were upset. Moving into the main draw were: No. 4 seed Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina, No. 5 seed Aljaz Beene of Slovakia, and No. 7 seed Federico Delbonis of Argentina. They were joined by Alexei Popyrin of Australia, Andrey Rublev of Russia, and Guido Andreozzi of Argentina. No. 2 seed Ugo Humbert of France fell to Rublev, 6-4, 6-4. Lorenzo Sonego of Italy advanced on a walkover.
• Coming in, Rafael Nadal at 31 years 10 months is the oldest Monte-Carlo champion. The youngest is Mats Wilander at 18 years 8 months. This year’s oldest player at Monte-Carlo is Philipp Kohlschreiber at 35 years 5 months. The youngest is Felix Auger-Aliassime at 18 years 8 months.
— Game, Set & Talk (@GameSetAndTalk) 14. April 2019
• Play resumes on Monday with 15 singles and five doubles matches starting at 11 a.m. local time. Four seeds – No. 10 Daniil Medvedev of Russia, No. 15 Denis Shapovalov, No. 13 Fabio Fognini and No. 17 Kyle Edmund – will be in action on Court Rainier III.
What they’re saying
Top seed Novak Djokovic met with the media on Sunday. He said of 11-time Monte-Carlo champion Rafael Nadal: “I think Rafa is obviously always a very clear favorite on any clay court in the world and that doesn’t change. He’s still there. If he’s physically fit he’s definitely the No. 1 guy on this surface, without a doubt.”
First round singles
No. 9 Borna Coric d. Hubert Hurkacz, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5
Guido Pella d. Laslo Djere, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4
Stan Wawrinka d. Lucas Pouille, 7-5, 6-3
Grigor Dimitrov d. Matteo Berrettini, 7-5, 6-4
First round doubles
No. 3 Jamie Murray-Bruno Soares d. Rohan Bopanna-Dominic Inglot, 4-6, 6-3, 13-11
No. 5 Oliver Marach-Mate Pavic d. Ben McLachlan/Jan-Lenard Struff, 5-7, 7-6 (4), 11-9
Maximo Gonzalez-Horacio Zeballos d. Marco Cecchinato-Andreas Seppi, 6-3, 6-4
Karen Khachanov-Feliciano Lopez d. Jean-Julien Rojer/Horta Tecau, 6-4, 6-3