- Chris Wilkinson
Forget Monte Carlo - Nadal & Djokovic are still the ones to beatChris Wilkinson April 20, 2014
Hats off to Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer for their displays at the Monte Carlo Masters, but even though the results didn't go to form, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are still the players to beat on clay.
It just shows how open it is at the moment. With Nadal losing to David Ferrer in the quarter-finals and Djokovic being toppled by Federer, no one is dominating as yet on clay and I do think it gives the other players hope.
They will have seen Wawrinka beat Federer in the final in Monte Carlo and think they are in with a shout of winning tournaments, too.
Despite the losses Nadal and Djokovic suffered, if you're going to bet on the French Open right now you'd have to say eight-time champion Nadal is the favourite, with Djokovic close behind.
After his semi-final defeat to Federer in Monte Carlo, Djokovic said he does not know how much time he will take off in order to fully recover from a wrist problem which hampered him last week, something which began to hurt during the two-week gap between Miami and Monte Carlo.
The Serb revealed he does not require surgery, but will he be fit for the French Open? That's a big question mark.
People will ask whether he should have played in Monte Carlo this week. Well, he was defending his title, so I can see why he played because he wanted to adjust to clay. He also lives there, so from his perspective his expectations were lower than normal, and he did admit reaching the last four was a good result considering he was battling injury.
Federer CAN win another Slam
I think Federer has been a revelation this season. In this column over the last year I'd sort of, as most people had, written him off - which was fair because his results weren't that good.
Two things have happened this year that have benefited the record 17-time Grand Slam champion. Firstly, he's fit. His back injury was well-documented and he said he couldn't play at 100%.
And then Stefan Edberg, his childhood hero, has been a great coach for him. You could see in the Monte Carlo final he was utilising the serve and volley and Wawrinka was unsure how to return. He's been able to add something to his game even at this latter stage of his career, and I think he will have a good year.
Could he win another major? Realistically you have to look at Wimbledon, where he shares the record with Pete Sampras of seven titles. Can he eclipse Sampras with one more? He has a chance for sure.
For the French Open, on clay over five sets with Nadal, Djokovic and even Ferrer there, it will be tough, so Wimbledon could be his best opportunity to add to his Grand Slam tally.
Wawrinka in with a shout at Roland Garros
We've come this far and still not talked about Wawrinka, who did win in Monte Carlo, after all. He is in with a shout of winning the French Open. After triumphing at the Australian Open he had a bit of a dip in his game, but his victory in Monte Carlo shows he is back to title-winning form. His expectations for the rest of the year will surely be to win another Grand Slam.
The Monte Carlo final wasn't a classic. There is quite a lot of respect between Wawrinka and Federer with them being friends and Davis Cup team-mates. Possibly that had a bit of an impact on it, but it was a good effort for Wawrinka to win and claim his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title.
Murray needs confidence
Andy Murray will be back for the Madrid Masters beginning on May 4. The Scot has been resting off the circuit after Great Britain's defeat to Italy in the Davis Cup quarter-finals at the start of the month.
He skipped the French Open in 2013 due to his back injury, but I do think he'll struggle during the clay court season, especially on a surface he admits isn't his best.
He has struggled to get back to his best after surgery on his back last September. What's important during the next few weeks on clay is that he regains some confidence. Once that returns, he'll give the British fans something to cheer about once again.
Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.