The first round was highlighted by the last match in Ivan Ljubicic‘s long career. 16 years on the tour, 291 tournaments played, countless of dramatic long matches, but the farewell was rapid – Ljubicic spent only 71 minutes on court during a bitter 0-6 3-6 defeat to fellow Croat Ivan Dodig. The Ljubicic’s attribute – the serve – evaporated totally, as never before, he was broken 6 times in 8 service games by a player for whom clay is the least favorite surface! “I have to say that I felt like it could end up emotional, but I didn’t expect it to be this emotional,” confessed the second best Croatian player in history. “Obviously, it’s the end of something beautiful for me. Now it’s time to do something else. I would love to help this sport to be even better in some way“. Ljubicic made his breakthrough at Monte Carlo thirteen years ago as he overcame qualifying rounds to beat easily famous “Soviet” names – Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Andrei Medvedev; ‘Ljubo’ reached three times quarterfinals in this tournament: he was beaten twice (2009, 11) by the the prince of the tournament – Rafael Nadal, who came back to his beloved venue speaking about his bothering left knee. Some pain in the knee wasn’t an obstacle to outplay in straight sets Jarkko Nieminen, beginning a bid for the 8th consecutive title in Monaco. In the third round Nadal takes on qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin who rallied from a *0:4 (15/30) deficit in the 1st set to beat Filippo Volandri 7-6(8) 2-6 6-2. Just like Nadal against Nieminen, Novak Djokovic has won all seven encounters against Andreas Seppi, whom he defeated 6-1 6-4 in his opening match. Djokovic said before the tournament that overcoming Nadal on clay would be the ultimate task. Admittedly the Serb beat Nadal twice on clay last year, but neither of those wins came on Nadals two favorite tournaments: Monte Carlo and Roland Garros. Therefore their potential final clash in Monaco is exciting. Andy Murray wants badly to bedevil expectations on another Djokovic-Nadal final. In his first clay-court match this season, he needed only 67 minutes to destroy Viktor Troicki, finishing his “Serbian tournée” – Murray has played the last three matches against the Serbs (he faced Tipsarevic and Djokovic in the two previous matches, in Miami). “It was good. I moved well,” said Murray about his 6-0 6-3 win. “I was sliding pretty well on the court. Normally that’s the thing that takes time to get used to. Normally for me that’s a good sign on the clay, whether I’m playing well or not.” Thomaz Bellucci  made the biggest upset of the first three days as he ousted last year’s finalist David Ferrer 6-3 6-2. Bellucci had never won a set in his three previous meetings with Ferrer. This time he broke the Spaniard at the beginning of both sets and consolidated it holding all service games quite easily. Ferrer’s first clay-court loss after 14-match winning streak. “I didn’t play very well,” lamented Ferrer. “But my opponent, he was better than me in the first and second set, in every moment. I made lots of mistakes. I am not fast. He plays very aggressive, very consistent. He was better.”
This year the tournament is deprived of two elite players: Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro. The latter played only one match at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, three years ago. The elite aspirant, 19-year-old Bernard Tomic , notched the first ATP clay-court win, but in the second round was dismissed by his most frequent opponent – Alexandr Dolgopolov in a quick three-setter (one hour 40 minutes). One of the recently hottest players on the tour (23-8 record since Valencia ’11), Juan Monaco, has bad luck as No. 14 in the world. Four years ago he advanced on this position (his highest ever) during a tournament at Vina del Mar and twisted his ankle which forced him to give a walkover instead of playing the final – in the consequence of the injury lost his form and dropped his ranking. This week he came back on No. 14 after clinching the title in Houston, and twisted the ankle again! It happened in the first round as he played against Robin Haase. Monaco took full control over the match after losing the 1st set, and had a break point at 3:1 in the 3rd set as a long rally occurred. After many strokes he slid badly, stumbled, fell on the ground and was moaning in pain “No creo! No creo!“. After a treatment to his right foot he came back on court, but couldn’t run, lost quickly two points and retired leading 5-7 6-0 3-2. A ligament in his ankle is torn, he will be out of the competitions for a month, which means he should return in Rome.