World No. 1 Novak Djokovic returns to action at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, but the two-time champion will have to negotiate a difficult path if he wants to add a third Monte-Carlo title to his collection following the release of the draw Friday.
The 34-year-old could face #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in a blockbuster quarter-final at the ATP Masters 1000 event, with Indian Wells titlist Taylor Fritz also in his quarter. A potential Monte-Carlo rematch with Daniel Evans looms in the third round, one year after the Briton upset Djokovic in the fourth round in Monaco – though Evans must first navigate an opening-round meeting with 14th seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
Djokovic, who opens against Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or American Marcos Giron, has never played Alcaraz, who arrives in Monte-Carlo high in confidence following his title run at the Miami Open presented by Itau. The eighth seed is making his debut at the clay-court event and will begin against Sebastian Korda or Botic van de Zandschulp. Alcaraz is 18-2 on the season, having also triumphed on clay in Rio de Janeiro.
American Fritz earned the biggest title of his career when he ended Rafael Nadal’s unbeaten start to the season to win the trophy in California last month. The 10th seed will play wild card Lucas Catarina in the first round, with French wild card Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Croatian Marin Cilic awaiting next.
In the bottom half of the draw, reigning champion Stefanos Tsitsipas will start his title defense against Italian former champ Fabio Fognini or Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech, with Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime seeded to meet the Greek in the quarter-finals.
Third seed Tsitsipas downed Andrey Rublev to clinch his maiden Masters 1000 crown last year and will be aiming to regain top form this week after losing to Alcaraz in the fourth round in Miami at the end of March.
Meanwhile, Auger-Aliassime has won just one match since he clinched the title in Rotterdam and reached the final in Marseille at the end of February. The sixth seed, who is making his fourth appearance in Monte-Carlo, will play #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti or Benoit Paire in his opening match. Musetti flourished on clay last season, advancing to the semi-finals in Lyon, before he advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros.
Second seed Alexander Zverev is in the same half of the draw as Tsitsipas and the same quarter as Rublev. The German could face the returning Stan Wawrinka in the third round if Zverev can overcome Federico Delbonis or a qualifier and Wawrinka can pass tests against Alexander Bublik and then Pablo Carreno Busta or a qualifier in the second round.
Former World No. 3 Wawrinka lifted the trophy in Monte-Carlo in 2014, but has not competed at a tour-level event since Doha last March. In a stacked bottom quarter, Italian Jannik Sinner will also pose a danger, with the ninth seed opening against Croatian Borna Coric. The 20-year-old, who has reached three tour-level quarter-finals in 2022, is seeded to meet Rublev in the last eight, with the 24-year-old opening against Australian Alex de Minaur or a qualifier.
Fourth seed Casper Ruud is in the top half of the draw and is a potential semi-finalist opponent for Djokovic. The Norwegian has captured six ATP 250 titles on clay and reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final last week in Miami. Ruud, who reached the Monte-Carlo and Madrid semi-finals last season, will begin his campaign against Aslan Karatsev or a qualifier and may play seventh seed Cameron Norrie or Pole Hubert Hurkacz in the last eight.
Norrie, who climbed into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, will open against Tallon Griekspoor or Albert Ramos-Vinolas, while Hurkacz faces dynamic Frenchman Gael Monfils.