The first Masters Series, on clay, of the season takes place this week at the Monte Carlo Country Club, in Monaco.
The last seven winners in Monte Carlo have all gone on to the final of the French Open that year. Nadal is the three-time defending champion in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros. Since 1991 only Marcelo Rios of Chile, in 1997, and Cedric Pioline of France, in 2000, have won in the Principality and failed to reach the final in Paris once.
Rafael Nadal is 24-1 lifetime in Monte Carlo and tied New Zealand's Anthony Wilding record of four consecutive wins here. Wilding won between 1911 and 1914. Nadal lost to Argentina's Guillermo Coria in the third round in 2003 and is a perfect 22-0 since. Coria won the title in 2004, served for the match in Paris but lost in five sets to fellow-Argentine Gaston Gaudio. He never recovered and is attempting a come-back, playing challenger events.
He is also the second player to claim both the single and double titles at a Masters Series, with his win alongside Spain's Tommy Robredo.
Nicolas Almagro has won two of the four clay court events he’s entered this year. He served for the title last week in Valencia, Spain, but eventually lost to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.
Sam Querrey is the only American in the draw in Monte Carlo. He won his first two matches, beating Spain’s Carlos Moya and Italy’s Andreas Seppi. The U.S. is set to meet Spain in Spain, probably on Clay, in the Davis Cup semifinals in September.
10 French and 9 Spanish players entered the main draw in Monte Carlo. Two of the French have reached the 3rd round --Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils--, while 5 of the Spaniards are still alive before the quarterfinals.
Roger Federer committed 54 unforced errors in his come-from-behind win over Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo in the 2nd round in Monte Carlo. He was down 1-5 in the 3rd set before rallying and claiming the tie-breaker 7-1.
Federer, runner-up here the last two years, is now working with Spain’s Jose Higueras. Higueras claimed 16 ATP titles, 15 of them on clay, as a player and helped guide Michael Chang (1989) and Jim Courier (1991-92) to Roland Garros crowns.
For the first time in his 225-match ATP career, Croatia's Ivo Karlovic failed to serve a single ace in his straight-set loss to France's Gael Monfils.
Sam Querrey is the first American to reach the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo since Vince Spadea in 2003.
The first six seeds made it to the last eight. Only Richard Gasquet (7), who lost to Querrey in the 3rd round and Mikhail Youzhny (8), who lost to Igor Andreev in the 2nd round, are missing.
The top four seeds, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Davydenko are also the four leaders of the 2008 ATP Race. Only once before have the top four seeds all advanced to the semifinals of an ATP Masters Series event. That first happened in Cincinnati in 1999, when Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter, Andre Agassi, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov all made the last four.
Nadal will win again in Barcelona next week, unless David Ferrer can play his best for two sets in the final. Other players to watch are James Blake and Guillermo Coria.