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Clay season 2021 kicks off in Monte Carlo with Djokovic and Rafa back on the court

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After an extended hiatus, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic would both be looking to make a positive start to the 2021 clay season at the Monte Carlo Masters, here in France.

Other than Nadal and Djokovic, also a part of the fray would be word number 2 Daniil Medvedev and World number 5 Stefano Tsitsipas. Notable absentees include Dominic Thiem, who is still nursing a foot injury that he got at the Vienna Open. Also absent would be Roger Federer who is still spending a lot of time in training to get back to his best-come June.

The Rolex Monte Carlo Masters begins on the 10th of April with the final showdown expected on the 18th of April.

Nadal and Novak looking for a potential title clash in Monte Carlo-

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Top seed Djokovic and third seed Nadal were placed in opposite halves of the ATP Masters 1000 draw, making it possible for the pair to meet in a fourth final at the Monte Carlo Country Club (2009, ’12-‘13).

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Djokovic, a two-time Monte Carlo champion (2013, ’15), may not be able to face Nadal until the final Sunday, but he will face an immediate test in the Principality.

In his first appearance since his ninth title run at the Australian Open, Djokovic will meet Miami Open presented runner-up Jannik Sinner or 2017 finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas in his opening match. The Serbian is yet to meet Sinner at tour level, but he owns a 6-0 ATP Head2Head record against Ramos-Vinolas.

On the other hand, in the bottom half of the draw, 11-time champion Nadal will also make his first appearance since the Australian Open. The Spaniard will start his bid for a 12th Monte-Carlo crown against Adrian Mannarino or a qualifier in the second round, after getting an opening-round bye.

Nadal has 71-5 record in Monte Carlo where he has fallen short of the quarter-finals just once – on his debut in 2003 as a 16-year-old.

The NextGen challenge-

Also, a title contender would be the Australian Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev who recently became the first player outside the ‘Big Four’ of Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray to reach number two in the world since Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt in July 2005.

However, he is wary of his chances on clay.

His 10 career titles have all come on hard courts while he has never won a match at Roland Garros in four visits.

Maybe in 2050 I’ll manage to get past the first round at Roland Garros,” the mercurial Russian joked.

Medvedev and Nadal are in the same half of the draw and could be heading for a potential semifinals clash.

The likes of Stefano Tsitsipas and Janik Sinner too can surprise with heavy bets being placed on both the players.

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