The Mediterranean Sea shimmers under the temporary stands of the Monte Carlo Country Club is always a glorious reminder that the summer will soon be over.
The start of the European clay park season is a harbinger of spring, and it will deviate somewhat from recent years, in the sense that Roger Federer will play a role.
Only in Madrid, early next month, will the Swiss participate, but Novak Djokovic warns that he does not think the big Swiss is coming for the ride.
Novak Djokovic believes that Roger Federer can still be a threat despite his recent clay absence
The Swiss star Federer is playing this season for the first time since 2016
Djokovic expects Federer to be a real challenger when this leg ends with Roland Garros, a threat to his own hope of completing a remarkable second clean ship of all four Grand Slams.
& # 39; It's hard to talk about Roger's level because it's always there & # 39 ;, said the Serbian as he prepared for the Monte Carlo Open.
& # 39; Apart from a year in which he changed a racket and dropped to number seven or eight, and when he was injured for six months and fell out of the top 15, maybe only twice in the last 15 years did I see him 10 or 20 percent play worse than the level he always plays. He will always be a candidate or favorite to win a tournament. & # 39;
As the new phase of the season begins, Federer actually leads the scoreboard based solely on this year's results. Djokovic pointed out that he made the final at Indian Wells as proof that he is technically still capable of causing damage to clay.
& # 39; At Indian Wells the ball bounces quite high, which imitates the clay. He treated the high balls very well throughout his career, so I don't see a particularly big problem for him playing on this surface. & # 39;
We will see. It is a big job for someone of 37 years to win on a surface that he has not adorned since 2016, but it adds much needed intrigues to a part of the season that has become too predictable in men's tennis.
World number 1 Djokovic focuses on a remarkable second clean range of all four Grand Slams
Even as he approaches his 33rd birthday, Rafael Nadal is still way ahead of anyone except Djokovic, based on the assumption that his knees are more resistant to clays than any other surface, which has always been the case.
What will be fascinating when the Serbian and the Spaniard meet is to see if there are any mental scars from the frightening kidnapping that Djokovic has given him in the final of the Australian Open.
The 32-year-old Serbian was brilliant in Melbourne and showed that he is still the best player in general, despite his form that popped up last month with unforeseen defeats at Indian Wells and Miami.
Looking back on that, he said: & # 39; I didn't play an official game for more than five weeks (after Melbourne) I had a lot going on the field. & # 39;
The last part is a reference to his role in the political shenanigans that ATP chief Chris Kermode did not see his contract renewed at the end of this year, to the consternation of many in the game.
Djokovic played a key role in ensuring that ATP chief Chris Kermode did not renew his contract
Djokovic is the best player and winning all four Grand Slams would be a stunning performance. Whether this qualifies for such a central role in managing a complex international company is entirely different.
The hope must be that a younger player or two will finally step forward to disrupt the bed-blocking glare of the established stars. At a time when the most important marquee players of the game are approaching twilight, an injection of new winners on the gentlemen's side at the biggest events cannot come fast enough.
With three Masters level events between now and the French Open, a likely scenario is that the promise will appear in the coming weeks with Nadal and Djokovic who don't have everything in their own way, but that it will turn out to be a miracle when Paris comes in the surroundings of.
In the ladies game, a whole series of players can challenge the success of Naomi Osaka to Slam
The women have no such problems on this front and a whole range of players can win. The most interesting questions about this current stage of the tour are whether Naomi Osaka can continue her winning ways with the Majors – unlikely with Roland Garros – and whether Serena Williams can rediscover hers (also unlikely, based on this year's proof, until Wimbledon comes around).)
Djokovic and Nadal start their campaigns this week, although the weather can be unpredictable. There was a mix of sunshine and torrential rains yesterday to greet this curtain defender for the summer. During the downpours it seemed like I was coming up at the start of the cricket season because there was only snow on the ground.
It is nice to see two Britons next to them in the main table (without Andy Murray) in the form of Kyle Edmund and Cam Norrie.
In the first round, Edmund, who arrived late last year after prematurely winning the final in Marrakech, meets the finalist of the French Open quarterfinals Diego Schwartzmann, while Norrie, now up to 55, meets Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Three names to view:
Dominic Thiem (Austria): Winning Indian Wells was the only high place for the 25-year-old world number five this season. But given the shape of Alex Zverev, last year's Roland Garros finalist still seems to be most likely to upset the best players on clay.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (Canada): Still early days for the 18-year-old Canadian, but it will be fascinating to see if he can support his progress with Indian Wells and Miami. He seems to be the best long-term bet.
Bianca Andreescu (Canada): Another feature of the unlikely Canadian golf in tennis, this is the other 18-year-old from the Maple Leaf country who strives to have all the equipment, as she showed when winning Indian Wells.
Dominic Thiem won at Indian Wells and is a player to see during the clay wall season