The Monte-Carlo Masters held at the Monte-Carlo Country Club is the first of three Masters Events on the clay ahead of the French Open in May.
Out of the whole ATP World Tour Masters 1000 series, this particular tournament is unique due to the fact that it is the only Masters competition where player participation is not mandatory.
Unless injuries or fatigue come into play however on the back of Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami, most players will elect to take part as the tournament carries a lot of prestige and also offers participants the chance to gain clay court fitness and fine-tune their game’s leading up to Roland Garros.
In betting terms however, this clearly indicates that at this point of the campaign, information is rather thin on the ground, as form from the hard court tournaments earlier in the year can mean little after the switch to clay – a surface which plays completely differently and in the main suits players who are more technically gifted and agile as opposed to powerful and hard-hitting.
Certain players on the tour through statistics and results can easily be identified as clay court specialists and they should be sided with more often than not in tournament match betting, even if their form or ability on other surfaces is or has been poorer than their opponent.
In terms of the tournament outright, there is (and has been) arguably no greater clay court specialist than Rafael Nadal – and the Spaniard has amazingly lifted the title on seven consecutive occasions from 2005 onwards, mopping up a monumental thirty-nine victories along the way to date.
Despite being overtaken by longstanding rival Novak Djokovic as the overall World No.1, Nadal’s sixth French Open triumph in 2011 meant that he still remains the ‘King of Clay’ and it is likely that he will hold the Monte-Carlo Masters trophy aloft on quite a few more occasions before his career comes to an end.
Nadal’s dominance in the event and likely favouritism in the near future should not deter interest however.
With 56 players in the draw, the Monte-Carlo Masters provides a sterling weeks-worth of clay court tennis action and this is one trend which has done anything but wane in the open era. Indeed during the 2011 renewal, Nadal’s nearest clay challenger Roger Federer was floored at the last 16 stage by Austrian Jurgen Melzer, proving that shocks do still happen and that even the best players can come unstuck on what is an extremely tricky surface.
Most vitally, the tournament provides many clues and a whole host of information in terms of betting in the long run, thinking particularly with regards to the French Open, as well as the forthcoming Masters Events in Madrid and Rome.
Like Nadal, many players in the past such as Bjorn Borg, Thomas Muster and Gustavo Kuerten have all followed up wins in Monaco with success at the French Open.
Moreover, it is likely that players, who can string a number of victories together in this particular tournament, can keep doing so throughout the clay court season leading into the second Grand Slam of the year and they are worth keeping an eye on until they have visibly met their match.