Europe 1 with AFP 15:11, 04 April 2023

A few days before the start of the Monte-Carlo tournament, the Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, contenders for the title, announced almost simultaneously their packages. Two absences of mark as the clay season begins, before the big appointment of Roland-Garros at the end of May beginning of June.

Injured, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz announced Tuesday, almost simultaneously, that they were withdrawing from the Masters 1000 of Monte-Carlo (9-16 April), depriving the first major tournament on clay of the year of two of the main headliners of the season on ochre that will culminate at Roland-Garros (29 May-11 June). "I am not yet ready to compete at the highest level, I will not be able to play in one of the most important tournaments of my career, Monte Carlo," tweeted Nadal, former world No. 1 dropped to 14th in the ATP.

Hola a todos, aún no me encuentro preparado para competir al más alto nivel. No podré jugar en uno de los torneos más importantes de mi carrera, Monte Carlo. No estoy aún en condiciones de jugar con las máximas garantías y continúo mi proceso preparación, esperando volver pronto

— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) April 4, 2023

"After two months of competition, I'm happy to go home, but sad because I finished my semi-final in Miami with injuries. After seeing my doctor (...), I will not be able to go to Monte-Carlo to start the clay season, "continued a few minutes later Alcaraz (2nd in the world).

After two months abroad, I am happy to return home but sad because I finished my last match in Miami with physical discomfort. After visiting my doctor @drlopezmartinez in Murcia today and being evaluated, I will not be able to go to Monte Carlo to start the clay court tour.

— Carlos Alcaraz (@carlosalcaraz) April 4, 2023

Auger-Aliassime also forfeit

In the process, the Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime (7th) gave up his turn from the Monte-Carlo tournament which until then boasted of receiving the entire Top 20 in the world. The forfeit of Nadal, who has not played on the tour since losing in the 2nd round of the Australian Open on January 18, is not a huge surprise. His latest statements and videos showing him in training - with movements far from the expected liveliness left him feared.

In Melbourne, he felt a sharp pain in the second set against MacKenzie McDonald but went to the end of the match when he had the greatest difficulty moving. In the process, he announced an unavailability of six to eight weeks and had drawn a line on the first Masters 1000 of the year, in Indian Wells and Miami.

Nadal already absent last year on the Rock

"I am not yet able to play with the maximum guarantees and I continue my preparation hoping to come back soon," said the 36-year-old Spaniard, record holder of eleven titles in the Principality. "Thank you for everything Rafa Nadal, hoping to see you again next year," tweeted the organization of the Monegasque tournament in reference to the approach of the end of career of the king of clay.

We wish Rafa all the best as he continues to prepare his return to the Tour !

➡️ Our 11-time singles champion will be missed!#RolexMonteCarloMasters

— Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (@ROLEXMCMASTERS) April 4, 2023

Already last year, Nadal missed the Monte-Carlo tournament. Defeated and injured in the final of Indian Wells, he had returned to competition only at the beginning of May in Madrid where he had lost to Alcaraz in the quarterfinals, then had lost in the eighth in Rome before winning for the 14th time Roland-Garros and bringing to 22 the record of Grand Slam titles, record equaled in Australia by Novak Djokovic. He still has tournaments in Barcelona (17-23 April), Madrid (26 April-7 May) and Rome (10-21 May) to prepare for the France Open.

For his part, Alcaraz missed the first Grand Slam tournament in January, but he came back strong in March. He had won titles at the ATP 250 in Buenos Aires, the ATP 500 in Rio and the Masters 1000 in Indian Wells before losing in the semis in Miami to one of his great generational opponents, Jannik Sinner, when he seemed on the way to the "Double in the sun".

A more open draw for Djokovic

Having crushed the competition in California without losing a set, he had indeed arrived in the last four in Florida without having lost a single set. But he could not pass the Italian obstacle. "I suffer from post-traumatic arthritis in my left hand and muscle discomfort in my back that require rest to prepare for everything that is yet to come," he said Tuesday.

Last season, Alcaraz established himself in March as one of the ogres of the year: after reaching the last four in Indian Wells, he won Miami. But he arrived on the Côte d'Azur visibly tired and lost to American Sebastian Korda as soon as he entered the competition in the second round on Monegasque soil. A few months later, and after a US Open title, he became the youngest world No. 1 in history.

This cascade of packages in Monte-Carlo opens perspectives to the rest of the table starting with Novak Djokovic, back Monday on the world throne without having been able to play in the United States for lack of covid vaccination. While his opponents left forces on the American hard courts, the 35-year-old Serb had plenty of time to fine-tune his preparation on clay and is waiting for all this little world with firm feet by aiming for a third title.