Masters 1000 tennis is already back, with the clay-court tournament in Monte Carlo officially underway.

 

Another angle. Not so bad...#rolexmcmasters

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Unlike Indian Wells and Miami, which both boast 96-man main draws, Monte Carlo features only 56 players, making it one of the sport's most competitive events, and giving competitors no time to play their way into the draw. 

This makes for some massive clashes as early as Round 1, and explains why Court Rainier III will be hosting four consecutive must-see matches on Monday. Here's who will  be facing off: 

Jared Donaldson vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas

One of only two Americans in the draw, 21-year-old Donaldson has to play 2017 Monte Carlo finalist Ramos-Vinolas, who last year beat Andy Murray, Marin Cilic and Lucas Pouille before falling to Rafael Nadal in the final. Donaldson, who's gone up 23 spots in the rankings since this time last year, is playing the tournament for the first time. 

Kei Nishikori vs. Tomas Berdych

Nishikori's comeback from his wrist injury has been a modest success so far. He won the Challenger in Dallas, and has since gone 4-3 in tour-level tournaments. He's playing Monte Carlo for the first time since 2012, when he lost in the third round to Berdych, his opening opponent this year. Berdych made the Monte Carlo final in 2015, going down in three sets to Novak Djokovic. 

 

Enjoying my first date with clay after long time ???? #slide #clay #dirt #monaco

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Novak Djokovic vs. Dusan Lajovic 

Another star waiting to resurge, Djokovic hasn't won a match since the Australian Open. His first-round match, with No. 90 Dusan Lajovic, will be his first since splitting with supercoaches Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek, and will be a good test of whether he's ready to have another good clay season. 

Denis Shapovalov vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas

Shapovalov won this all-teen matchup in straight sets at the Australian Open, but the surface in Monte Carlo poses a whole new set of uncertainties. Neither Shapovalov nor Tsitsipas has played a proper clay season on tour yet, and they both purport their favorite surface to be grass. The question of which of them will break into the top tier first could hinge on whose game adapts better to the clay. 

Shapovalov celebrated his 19th birthday on Sunday. 


This Week on Tennis Channel Plus:

ATP Monte Carlo (4/15-4/22)
-Tennis Channel Plus has multi-court coverage of the 2018 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters beginning Sunday April 16 at 7:00 AM ET, first to last ball!

WTA Dothan (4/17-4/22)
-Don’t miss the Hardee’s Pro Classic featuring Taylor Townsend and Madison Brengle live on Tennis Channel Plus beginning April 17 at 11:00 AM ET 

Fed Cup (4/21-4/22)
-Tennis Channel Plus is your home for Fed Cup action! Watch live ties between USA vs. France and Germany vs. Czech Republic beginning at 6:00 AM ET on Saturday April 21

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