Despite its size, the Principality of Monaco plays host to many high-profile sporting events including the third Masters series tournament on the ATP Tour, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Open to get the European clay court season underway.
It was a tough match because first time on clay after quite a while, it’s never easy,” Sinner said. “So I’m very happy about my performance, even if it was not my best. I think at the end of the match I raised my level, which for me was important Jannik Sinner
Having kicked off with just five main draw matches played on Sunday, the first-round schedule was fuller on Monday and was completed without any upsets with all the players expected to go through reaching round two where the marquee names await having received byes.
Italy had two successes Jannik Sinner and Fabio Fognini; both were forced into three setters and could meet in the quarter-finals if successful over the next two rounds.
Sinner, the ninth seed, held off Croatia’s Borna Coric to advance 6-3 2-6 6-3 after holding off a break chance by the Croat early in the third set and overcoming some sort of ab injury picked up during the match.
“It was a tough match because first time on clay after quite a while, it’s never easy,” Sinner said. “So I’m very happy about my performance, even if it was not my best. I think at the end of the match I raised my level, which for me was important.”
While there was disappointment in the Coric camp, it should be remembered the former world No.12 was playing his first clay match since Rome 2020 when he went under the knife to deal with a shoulder injury.
“I know Borna quite a lot already, so I wish him all the best. It’s nice to see him back on Tour,” Sinner added. “I feel back in shape and ready to compete.”
Meanwhile his compatriot Fognini, the 2019 champion, resplendent in an all-yellow outfit matching the tennis balls, outlasted Frenchman Arthur Rinderknecht, 7-5 4-6 6-3 to get his campaign for a second Monegasque title under way. However he will have to clear a tough hurdle in the shape of Stefanos Tsitsipas, the defending champion from Greece, in the next round first!
Rinderknecht was later joined by the ‘retiring’ Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, on the trip back home to France following his evening 6-2 6-2 loss to Croat Marin Cilic.
Another former champion, Stan Wawrinka, was also in action.
The Swiss star who has for much of his career been under the shadow of his compatriot Roger Federer whom he beat to win the title in 2014, eventually fell to Alexander Bublic of Kazakhstan 3-6 7-5 6-2 in what was his first match on the main tour since Doha 2021 and his first Masters event since Paris 2020 following a series of foot surgeries.
“I think the body’s getting much better,” Wawrinka said in his post-match press conference. “I’m still far away from where I want to be, but I think I’m [going in] the right direction. I think today was a positive match. It was a tough loss, of course, but I’m happy with the way I was playing today.
“I was playing better, feeling better on the court of course physically. I spent a lot of mental energy to focus, to stay there as it was tough at the end. But I’m happy with what I have done today.”
Despite the result, Bublik was not exactly overjoyed and said he is already looking forward to the grass season.
“The only thing I can say is I wish Stan a good recovery,” he said.
“If he was in shape I wouldn’t be standing here. I wish the clay will end and we go onto grass! There was no match from my side, I hate clay, that is a statement – I hate this surface!
“I don’t think I turned anything around, he was not very healthy at the end of the second set and third set. It’s a clay court, it’s not for me.”
Bublik now faces a man who is comfortable on the surface, the 13th seeded Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round following the Spaniard’s defeat of qualifier Sebastian Baez of Argentina 6-4 4-6 6-2.
Baez was one of three Argentines in action and the only one of the trio to suffer a loss with Diego Schwartzman, seeded 12 finally ousting the Muscovite Karen Khachanov 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3 while Federico Delbonis battled past Jaume Munar, a qualifier from Spain, 6-4 3-6 6-4.
Next up for Schartzman is Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, a 6-4 6-7(5) 6-1 winner over South Africa’s Lloyd Harris while Delbonis has the pleasure of facing the second seed from Germany, Alexander Zverev.
In other action, American Sebastian Korda powered past Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp 7-5 6-4 and Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas downed the other Dutch representative, Tallon Griekspoor 6-4 4-6 6-2.
Missing from this year’s line-up is Rafa Nadal, the 11-time champion of Monte Carlo, the world No2 Daniil Medvedev, Austria’s Dominic Thiem and Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.