Spanish world number five and 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal begins his quest for a ninth Monte Carlo Rolex Masters title against Brit Aljaz Bedene. Nadal received a bye into the second round while Bedene blew past big-hitting Czech Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-3 to secure his passage into round two. Nadal and Bedene have never met before.
Nadal's sub-par start to 2016
After struggling mightily in 2015, Nadal came into 2016 looking for a new start, trying to rebound from the worst year of his career. The Spaniard began the year at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, where he reached the final, before getting trounced by world number one Novak Djokovic. Though the fourteen-time major winner showed signs of getting back to his best, Nadal hit another big road block in losing first round at the Australian Open to fellow Spanish lefty Fernando Verdasco.
Looking to bounce back from his first ever first round defeat at a major, Nadal ventured to his beloved clay, not in Europe, but in South America in Buenos Aires. Nadal won in Buenos Aires in 2015, but the nine-time French Open champion ended up falling in the semifinals to rising star Dominic Thiem. The next week in Rio, the world number five again fell in the last four, this time to veteran clay courter Pablo Cuevas in three, tight sets.
At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the former world number one showed resurgent form, blitzing his way to a monumental semifinal result for the Spaniard. Nadal ended up falling short against world number one Novak Djokovic, but the fourteen-time Grand Slam champion pushed the Serb to his limits, as Nadal showed he is on his way back up. Most recently the nine-time French Open winner was forced to retire in his opening match in Miami to Damir Dzhumhur due to heat illness.
Bedene's inconsistent start to 2016
Bedene began his year making it all the way to the semifinals in Chennai, losing to Borna Coric in the last four. The next week the Brit lost first round in Auckland, and against lost in the opening round at the Australian Open to American Steve Johnson. At the Rio Open, the world number 66 fell in his opening match to Italian Fabio Fognini. In Acapulco, Bedene reached the second round, before falling to Dutchmen Robin Haase. In Indian Wells, the Brit had suffered another first round loss, before making the second round most recently in Miami.
Previous Monte Carlo results
While Bedene is making his first appearance in Monte Carlo, Nadal has dominated the French Riviera, winning eight times in the past ten years. Nadal began his domination of the principality in 2005, breezing to the final before battling past gritty Argentine Guillermo Coria in four sets in the final. The following year the Spaniard defended his title, defeating 17-time major champion Roger Federer in the final. Almost a carbon copy of 2006, Nadal swept through the field in 2007, not dropping a set on his way to the title, again defeating the Swiss, Federer, in the final. For the second straight year, the nine-time French Open champion did not drop a set on the way to the final, where he again beat his rival Federer.
In 2009, Nadal again won the title, keeping his reign in Monte Carlo, despite a tough challenge from Djokovic in the final. In 2010, the Spaniard blew through the draw, not coming close to dropping a set all tournament, crushing countrymen Fernando Verdasco in the final. The following year, Nadal's challenge grew, but evidently the Spaniard kept up winning ways, claiming his seventh Monte Carlo title. In 2012, the 14-time Grand Slam champion claimed his eighth Monte Carlo title, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final.
In 2013 Nadal's reign on Monte Carlo ended after eight years, with 11-time major champion Novak Djokovic dethroning the king of Monte Carlo to claim his first title in Monaco. The following year Nadal fell again, this time to David Ferrer in the quarterfinals, before last year falling again to Djokovic in the last four.
Though Nadal has not won in Monte Carlo in three years, the Spaniard cannot be taken lightly anywhere, especially on the dirt. For Nadal, it will be key for him to take advantage of any short balls, and to use his forehand to blistering affect to dominate his British opponent. Unfortunately for Bedene, the Brit does not posses any major weapons and will find it very tough to hang with Nadal on clay. Expect the eight time champion to cruise through to the third round and to put away Bedene without any trouble.
Prediction: Nadal in straight sets