The Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters will have a different winner than last year, as the defending champion Andrey Rublev was immediately eliminated from the tournament on Wednesday, April 10 in his first appearance on Court Rainier III at this tournament. Rublev was defeated by Australia’s Alexei Popyrin, who was the superior player in two sets (6-4, 6-4).

Rublev had already indicated before the match that he was not counting on a prolongation of his title; “Last year’s victory was a nice surprise and certainly gave me a lot of confidence. But the pressure to do well again is great and I still miss regularity in my game. I have no idea where I stand now.”

The defeat did not come as a complete surprise to Rublev, who was seeded sixth. Popyrin will meet his compatriot Alex De Minaur on Thursday, April 11, who won in three sets against Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor (2-6, 6-2, 6-3).

Jannik Sinner has continued his victory flush of the last few months in Monte-Carlo by winning the first duel on clay with force majeure. America’s Sebastian Korda didn’t stand a chance against the Italian, who is seeded second at this tournament. It was 6-2, 6-1 in a match that lasted only 76 minutes. Sinner will play on Thursday, April 11 against Jan-Lennard Struff, who had already won against Borna Ćorić on Tuesday, April 9.

“I think me and Sebastian have similar game styles, so we were not playing like the classic clay-court specialists, we like to play quite flat,” Sinner said after the match, adding that “I am happy with this performance. Every year it is tough to come here and perform, but let’s see what is coming in the next round, it is always great to be back here.” Sinner has only won one clay court tournament in the past, at Umag in 2022.

Two-time tournament winner Stefanos Tsitsipas needed even less time to qualify for the third round at the expense of Argentinian Tomas Martin Etcheverry. In just over an hour, the Greek recorded a convincing victory (6-1, 6-0). He broke his opponent’s serve six times and will face Sascha Zverev as his opponent on Thursday, April 11 in perhaps the most high-level showdown of the day at the tournament.

Daniil Medvedev recorded a good victory over Gaël Montfils, who participated in this tournament again after eight years. The 37-year-old Frenchman had recorded a creditable victory over Australian Vukic on Tuesday evening but could not resist the class of the Russian a day later. The match was decided in two sets (6-2, 6-4). The Italian Lorenzo Sonego, as a lucky loser replacement for Carlos Alcaraz, surprised spectators by beating the Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in two sets (6-4, 7-5). Sonego will face Frenchman Ugo Umbert on Thursday, who defeated China’s Zhizeng Zhang in straight sets (6-1, 6-4).

On Thursday, Novak Djokovic’s duel with Italian Davis Cup winner Lorenzo Musetti will be eagerly awaited. Both men also met on centre court at the Monte-Carlo Country Club a year ago and the Italian recorded a thrilling victory. Of course, Djokovic, who is now the oldest No. 1 in the history of the ATP rankings, is looking for revenge. “I am not scared of anything and anybody, but he is obviously one of the most talented players on clay, with a beautiful one-handed backhand. He is very athletic and can do a lot of great things. He is one of the most promising young players in the world,” Djokovic said about his opponent of the day.

Featured image courtesy of REUTERS/Denis Balibouse: Russia’s Andrey Rublev reacts during his round of 32 match against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin