Federer returns in Monte Carlo as Djokovic ramps up Roland Garros plans

The European clay season gets underway on Monday as the road to Roland Garros begins with the Monte-Carlo Masters.


Novak Djokovic is the defending champion at Monte Carlo and goes into the tournament as the in-form player and will be looking to claim a 64th career title.

Needing just the French Open for a career Grand Slam, after consecutive final losses, the world number one has tasted defeat just once on Tour all season.

Roger Federer makes his return from a knee injury, while Andy Murray and eight-time champion Rafael Nadal are among those looking to steal Djokovic’s thunder.

Djokovic is the in-form player heading into Monte Carlo after dominating the early-season hard courts, winning titles at the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami Open.

The Serbian was victorious on the clay courts of Monte Carlo and Rome last year, and will hope he can build similar momentum ahead of the French Open, the only major to elude him, once again.

Federer makes his return after a lay-off of more than two-months in Monte Carlo and the former world number one will want to get back into the swing of things as soon as possible.

The 17-time grand slam winner underwent surgery on his knee in early February and it remains to be seen how his physical condition holds up.

Stan Wawrinka was the defending champion in 2015 but lost out in the third round to Grigor Dimitrov. Djokovic went on to win the title after dropping just one set along the way, defeating Tomas Berdych in the final 7-5 4-6 6-3.

Second seed Federer went out in the third round to Gael Monfils, who lost to Berdych in the semi-finals. Djokovic moved past Nadal to make the final before going on to claim the title.

Nadal, who won eight straight titles in Monte Carlo between 2005 and 2012, was once proclaimed the “King of the Clay”. However, since winning the 2014 French Open, the Spaniard has struggled on his preferred surface.

The Spaniard reached the semi-finals of the Buenos Aires and Rio Open this year but went down on both occasions to Dominic Thiem and Pablo Cuevas respectively.

Since his last Roland Garros crown, Nadal has lost eight times on clay, compared to only 14 defeats on dirt in the previous 10 years combined.

Victory at the Australian Open this year moved Djokovic to 11 major wins, with many tipping him to surpass Federer’s men’s record tally.

Djokovic is not letting that distract him heading into Monte Carlo, which serves as a good preparation for the French Open next month.

“Of course it’s in the back of my mind,” Djokovic said. “But it’s not a main motivation. Because then things can go a little bit out of control, maybe can present some kind of distraction that I don’t need.”

Meanwhile, Federer is just excited to be back out on the court, admitting his return came sooner than he expected.

“Expectations are really low, which is nice for a change. Just see where I am, go out there,” the Swiss said.

“Once you’re out there, you want to win, it’s clear. I’m a competitor. I’m just really pleased I’m back. I didn’t expect myself to be back here so soon after surgery.”