Wow, Thursday was a crazy day in Monte Carlo. It’s like the top seeds all went out to the same party last night and forgot they had to get up early to play. Oh wait, they kind of did - Wednesday was the annual “ATP Player Revue” – i.e. the players’ big chance to dress up in drag and amuse their colleagues like a bunch of sailors weeks away from shore. This does sound legitimately hilarious (via tournament website):
Stand-out performances came from Bruno Soares and Milos Raonic. Soares joined with Haase to impersonate WTA star Victoria Azarenka and her musician boyfriend, Red Foo. No-one laughed louder than the Belarusian star, who was in attendance, and afterward congratulated Soares on his performance backstage.
Raonic impersonated Mahesh Bhupathi in his first performance, and later took to the stage with Nielsen in a fun send-up of his doubles partner this week, Bernard Tomic. After sportingly laughing through the sketch that called into question his own on-court quirks, the Canadian was then front and centre in the Harlem Shake performance that closed the show.
Since Murray’s a teetoatler, he can’t use that as an excuse for his blink-and-you-missed-it loss to Stanislas Wawrinka on Thursday: 1-6, 2-6 in 58 minutes. It was what we call an error-strewn performance and one that earned Murray some boos from the Monte-Carlo crowd. (Amusingly, at least to me, The Observer notes that this is the third time in five years that the Scot has been heckled by the Monte-Carlo crowd. Can you name the other two matches?)
Here’s Murray’s take on the loss:
“I just looked at the stats on the way up the stairs. Twenty-four unforced errors is far too many. That’s a set’s worth. That’s where half the points went. . .
“I need to make sure I get good practice in, that’s for sure, over the next two weeks.”
This is a tough loss for Murray, but not a shameful one. Wawrinka is a worthy opponent and has beaten Murray in all of their clay court meetings. I’m actually waiting for Stan to “man up” this season. He’s been title-less since winning Chennai in 2011 and seems to be forever on the cusp. But there’s no doubt he wants to do well and make good on his potential, last viewed for the world to see in his amazing 6-1, 5-7, 4-6, 7-6(5), 10-12 loss to Novak Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open. He’s hired Soderling’s old coach and ex-player, Magnus Norman, and, loss to Tommy Robredo last week in Casablanca aside, seems to have what it takes to be the dangerous floater (dare I say the Soderling!?) on the terre battue this year.
Stan helped out his countryman, Roger Federer, today, as Roger will replace Murray in the No. 2 position next week. However, Roger will fall back down before the French unless he’s able to defend his championship points in Madrid.
Other upsets included Fabio Fognini’s win over No. 4 seed Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro’s 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4) loss to 31-year-old Finn Jarkko Nieminen, who will be playing in his first Masters quarterfinal since 2006. The Argentine was reportedly hampered by a quadricept injury. Nieminen’s next opponent, Novak Djokovic, is also playing with an injury and has needed to fight back from a one set deficit in both his matches in Monte-Carlo this week, Nole won today’s battle vs. Juan Monaco ugly, committing 25 winners and 45 unforced errors in the 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. He told the press after his match:
“Obviously I’m not physically out there feeling my best. Somehow it feels that I always miss that half a step. But I’m trying, I’m fighting.”
Like Novak, I’ve been going back and forth about his decision to play this week on that bad ankle. I can see why the Monte-Carlo resident wants to show up – the crowd loves him, he can stroll over from his place, and he’ll get a nice stretch of time off afterwards, before returning in Madrid. It’s admirable that he wants to get out there and play, but I just don’t see how it’s worth it for him to struggle against these lower ranked players and perhaps lose ugly to the likes of Rafael Nadal. Oh well, maybe Jarkko will put him out of his misery and he can duck Rafa admirably.
Speaking of Nadal, he tidily beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 6-4 and will face Grigor Dimitrov in an intriguing quarterfinal. It’s only the second time the two have met.
Richard Gasquet continues his promising form for the season, beating Marin Cilic to take on Fognini in a French-Italian quarterfinal that will be sure to thrill the Monte-Carlo crowd.