Monte Carlo, the first of the clay court Masters 100os which lead up to the French Open, got underway at the weekend with a field which includes some of the best clay courters in the game.
I took 12,000 euros to be in a quiet hotel, then I go home. The Rainier court, on the shores of the Mediterranean is normally the most beautiful court in the world. But this year it’s the atmosphere of a cemetery. So the only moment of happiness is when I’m at home, when I don’t put on my mask, that I don’t give a damn about the Covid. Benoit Paire
But the opening days brought its own problems with heavy ran disrupting play on Monday, Benoit Paire firing off another anti-ATP salvo following his defeat on Sunday, and one of the favourites for the title, Daniil Medvedev testing positive for Covid during practice yesterday.
In his latest outburst against the pandemic restrictions and reduced prize money, Paire, following his 6-4 6-7(3) 7-6(5), three-hour loss to Australia’s Jordan Thompson – his ninth loss in 10 matches this season – made his views very clear.
“I don’t give a damn. I still have doubles to play here and after that, I clear off home,” the 31-year-old Frenchman said.
“I can say nothing on the match. Tennis doesn’t make me happy anymore. To be here is an absolute sadness because it’s usually the best tournament in the world.”
He went on: “I don’t give a damn, fight or not fight. They say it’s Monte Carlo, but we are playing in a sad atmosphere. That’s how it is, the circuit has become rotten.
“Winning or losing in such conditions, I don’t care. I no longer have the spark,” Paire added finishing his tirade by declaring he was happy to take the first round losers pay-cheque.
“I took 12,000 euros to be in a quiet hotel, then I go home. The Rainier court, on the shores of the Mediterranean is normally the most beautiful court in the world.
“But this year it’s the atmosphere of a cemetery.
“So the only moment of happiness is when I’m at home, when I don’t put on my mask, that I don’t give a damn about the Covid.”
But there was some good news for British fans as Dan Evans won his first tour-level victory on clay in four years when he defeated the 2019 runner-up, the Serbian Lusan Lajovic 6-3 6-7(11) 6-2 in his opening round on the exclusive courts of the Monte Carlo Tennis Club and end a four-match losing streak.
The match started on Monday but went into a second day after Evans had taken the first set and rain took charge of the schedule.
Lajovic struck back in the second set to with Evans failing to convert two match points while saving five set points before his opponent levelled on the sixth.
The match swung back Evan’s way in the decider with Evans eventually claiming the win on his fourth match point.
“It obviously got a bit ugly in the second set,” Evans told Amazon Prime Video. “It was difficult because the last few matches have been tough, especially last week, and I was thinking about that a bit.
“It was tough to swallow the missed smash but I came back and I thought I played well throughout the whole match to be honest.
“Dusan’s a good clay-court player. It sounds a bit silly but it’s better when I play a clay-courter on this stuff because they’re not used to my game so much.”
His next opponent will be the Miami Open champion Hubert Hurkacz the 13th seed from Poland in round two.
The fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas also made a winning start when he cruised past the Russian Aslan Karatsev 6-3 6-4 to progress into the third round following a first round bye.
The 22-year-old was helped by the 32 unforced errors off the Karatsev racket to set up a clash with either Australian John Millman or Chile’s Cristian Garin.
Tsitsipas later commented: “My clay court experience helps a lot to come back each year stronger, knowing that I have done better before. It was a very beautiful game out there and I enjoyed it.”
Novak Djokovic meanwhile will face teenager Jannik Sinner in his second round match after the up-and-coming Italian, this year’s Miami Open finalists. saw off Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets 6-3 6-4.
Looking ahead to that meeting, Sinner said: “I think he has more experience than me, obviously… I played today one match which can give me a little bit the feeling back on clay. I’m looking forward to a great battle, trying to play my tennis, to make my tennis, then we will see what’s happening.”
Meanwhile the 2019 champion, Italy’s Fabio Fognini beat Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic, 6-2 7-5, hitting 27 winners in the process, and will next play Australian Jordan Thompson while his fellow Italian, Lorenzo Sonego, last weekend’s Cagliari winner, continued his winning ways against Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics, 6-3 6-4, and will be taking on the fifth seeded German Alexander Zverev next.
N other results, Chile’s Cristian Garin beat Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, 7-6(3) 6-1 and will now play John Millman, who beat Ugo Humbert, 6-3 6-3.
Also through is Norway’s Casper Ruud who beat teenage Dane wild card Holger Rune, 6-2 6-1, and will meet Diego Schwartzman, the seventh seed from Argentina in round two.