After months of fast-paced hardcourt action, the clay-court season is now underway and this week sees the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in action at the prestigious Monte Carlo Masters.
Nadal is the defending champion and has an astonishing record at the Monte Carlo Country Club, having won the last seven editions of the tournament.
However, it is his first event back since picking up a knee injury at the Miami Masters in March and his rivals are sure to be looking to strike a psychological blow ahead of the French Open in May.
The Spaniard will take his bow in the second round on Tuesday, but there are a number of exciting players in action on Monday who will all be looking to get their tournament off to a positive start.
The most eye-catching of the games is the tie between Stanislas Wawrinka and Feliciano Lopez which could turn out to be an absolute cracker.
Wawrinka is one of the most hard-working players in the game, but never seems to get the results his dedication deserves. However, there is no doubting his talent and like his fellow Swiss Roger Federer, has one of the most beautiful backhands in the game.
His opponent Lopez always seems to be a player who starts tournaments well before fading away when the pressure is on. Despite this, the left-hander has all the shots and will be confident of his chances of what would be seen by many has somewhat of an upset.
However, Wawrinka should have enough to beat the Spaniard, Lopez will certainly prove a tricky customer, especially with the game being played on his favoured surface of clay.
Another match to look out for is the clash between up and coming Bernard Tomic and the dangerous Denis Istomin.
The two players previously met at the start of the year with Tomic coming out on top in straight sets, but with this match being played on clay, it’s sure to be a different proposition and Istomin’s experience could prove vital.
Tomic is certainly one of the sports rising stars and looks as if he could have the all-round game to emerge as one of the world’s best players in the coming years.
The 19-year-old has previously struggled on clay but will fancy his chances of beating Istomin as he builds his experience on the slower courts of Europe.
On the other hand, Istomin is known for his guts rather than his technical ability, but if the match goes to a final set, he’ll be confident of his chances and is in good form having reached the final of SAP Open in Canada earlier this year.
Experience could prove vital in this one and despite Tomic’s obvious talent, he may prove a bit green against the wily Uzbek and Istomin could just sneak it.