The sun is coming and it’s the beginning of the 1000 Masters on clay. As usual, it’s in Monaco that the greats of the surface meet. At a canter, Rafael Nadal won for the eighth time in a row in Monte Carlo and all...

The sun is coming and it’s the beginning of the 1000 Masters on clay. As usual, it’s in Monaco that the greats of the surface meet. At a canter, Rafael Nadal won for the eighth time in a row in Monte Carlo and all the more impressive coming against Novak Djokovic. For the girls, the Fed Cup by BNP Parisbas has delivered its verdict: it will be Serbia-Czech Republic in the final.

Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal makes it 8 out of 8

You couldn’t ask for a better match-up for the first Masters 1000 final on clay. In Monte Carlo, the Gods of tennis offered up Nadal-Djokovic for our delight. Except that the Spaniard easily dispatched a very average Nole (6-3, 6-1). Without hitting the heights, Nadal won his eighth consecutive title in Monte Carlo, pushing his record here to 41 straight wins. Harassing the Serb on his service (with three breaks in the second set, for example), Rafa wanted for nothing in defence or in commitment. The Djoker, for his part, never managed to unsettle his opponent and lost heavily, without even putting up a fight. We were expecting a hard-fought final and got a quick, one-sided one. Djoko stays on seven victories against the Majorcan, all of them coming in finals.

 

Tweet of the week

"I think Rafael Nadal has found the secret to beating Djoker. No training for two weeks". April 22 @PatrickMcEnroe The punchline from Patrick McEnroe, captain of the United States Davis Cup team, during the final between Rafa and Nolé. It’s not for certain that this secret would work for everyone though. Ask Gilles Simon.

 

Gilles Simon: hope springs eternal

The Frenchman arrived in Monte Carlo without any pressure. He wanted to have fun. Get his game back. He ended up with a semi-final place in the bag, taking the scalp of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his quarter-final. In the semi-final, the world number 15 battled against Rafael Nadal. Still too tight to really tickle the Spaniard, Simon went down fighting: 1h50 game and 7 break points in his favor. At the press conference, he talked about his defeat: "I feel like I have to do so much for just a point". One thing is for certain, Simon gave himself a timely boost before Roland Garros.  

Zero

The number of tournaments on clay won by Andy Murray, who has 22 titles to his resumé. Obviously, the Scot doesn’t like the sun. How surprising.  

Fed Cup by BNP Parisbas, the Czech Republic was invited again in the final ...

Defending champions following their victory against Russia in Moscow last year, the Czechs will fight for their Fed Cup by BNP Parisbas title against Serbia. Against Italy, a real force at the Fed Cup by BNP Parisbas (victors in 2006, 2009 and 2010), the Czechs toyed with their transalpine colleagues (4-1). Well-led by the world number 3 Petra Kvitova, the anointed of Petr Pala did not do embarassed themselves with too much details: they won the first three games without even dropping a set. Flawless. A semi-final won in the old-fashioned way: big serve, speed and break points guaranteed.

 

…Against Serbia, who have reason to believe

In the other semi-final between Russia and Serbia, the former Yugoslavs kept their order and discipline to run out 3-2 winners. Calling upon the talents of two beautiful brunettes, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, Dejan Vranes’ girls left Moscow having qualified for the final. A semi-final won through experience against a Russian team shorn of Sharapova and Zvonareva . The credit goes to Jankovic, who won both her singles matches, against Pavlyuchenkova and Kuznetsova, without dropping a set.  

The rankings

77- The ranking of James Blake, former world number four in 2006, winner of ten titles in his career and with a hammer of a forehand. An exuberant guy with no hair and a strange look, the American is at the end of his career: he’s almost 33. Too bad, he had that extra something.

 

Belgium drops down, France safe in World Group II

In the Fed Cup by BNP Parisbas for the poor, Belgium, diminished by the absence through injury of Kim Clijsters, lost (4-1) to Japan in the play-off to stay in the World Group. With this exit, the Belgians will be in the World Group II, the antechamber of the Fed Cup by BNP Parisbas. Here they will meet France. Victorious in Slovenia (5-0), Virginie Razzano and her friends stayed up. Phew!

 

The quote

 that would be a laugh if I win a tournament on clay before winning one on another surface.
The quote is from Bernard Tomic, 1m92, with a howitzer-like serve and a special affection for grass, including a quarter-final at Wimbledon in 2011. The Australian can smile now. In beating Denis Istomin in the first round, he finally won his first game on clay on the senior tour.   By Mathieu Faure