The Rolex Masters, in its breathtaking Monte-Carlo setting, marks the beginning of the clay season every year. From this point, players have just over one month to shift from a hard court mindset to a clay one in time for Rolland Garros.
This tournament is an important campaign not only because of its large 1000 point value; it is also the time for the top players to prove that they have what it takes to be successful in the French Open and for the rest of the season.
Here's a look at what a Rolex Masters title would mean for each of the Top 10 men.
UPDATE: After posting this story, I found out that Federer, Fish, and Isner will not be playing in the Rolex Masters this year. Ignacio Perrone, thank you for pointing this out.
With his astounding five Masters titles last year, it is shocking to think that there are tournaments in which the Djoker didn't take part. But sure enough, he did not play in the 2011 Rolex Masters.
What does this mean for him?
If he wins this title, he will be gaining a full 1,000 points towards his ranking, since he currently has no Monte-Carlo points to replace. This would be huge for his lead over World No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Roger Federer, who are both struggling to take back the No. 1 spot that they have both enjoyed in the past.
It will also prove that he is once again a force to be reckoned with on clay, even against Nadal, who has been king of the surface for so long.
A Rolex Masters title for Djokovic would mean that his clay success leading up to the 2011 French Open was no fluke, and that he is on the right track to achieving the Career Grand Slam at Rolland Garros this year.
As mentioned earlier, Spanish legend Rafa Nadal has been king of the clay courts in recent years, and he would certainly love to retain that throne at a time where Djokovic seems to be taking everything else.
Nadal won the Rolex Masters last year, which means that even if he wins the title, he won't be gaining points. However, it will still mean a lot for him, especially if he takes down his Serbian rival in the final.
In that case, he will have made a statement to the world that he isn't going to give up the Rolland Garros crown easily. He did win the French last year, but he never had to play Djokovic, so it is still unclear who would win on that stage.
One thing's for sure: a 2012 Monte-Carlo title would give the Spaniard some comfortable breathing room and much-needed confidence.
The Swiss Maestro has had his eyes on taking back the No. 1 spot since the last time he sat in it, and winning the title in Monte-Carlo would be a huge step in the right direction.
Since Nadal won it last year, anything less than first place will mean that the Spaniard loses points. Federer, on the other hand, didn't make it past the quarterfinals in 2011.
As disappointing as the result seemed at the time, it may actually help him now. If he wins the tournament, he will be gaining 820 points. He would meet Nadal in the semifinals (assuming the Top Four all participate), so if Federer wins, Nadal will be losing at least 640 points.
Simply stated, if Federer takes the Monte-Carlo trophy home, he will be the new World No. 2.
Fans of Andy Murray have been anxiously awaiting his first Grand Slam title, and each attempt brings hope to his fans. He almost always reaches the semifinals, so all it will take for him to win one is two upsets over his superiors in a row.
That sounds difficult (because it is), but it's far from impossible. Past occasions have shown the tennis world that he is completely capable of beating each of them.
Winning the Rolex Masters this year would also most likely involve beating two Big Four members in a row, and if he can do it on clay now, there's no reason that he won't be able to in the French Open next month.
Going into almost every Slam, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is one of the top Dark Horses, and many fans believe that he might break out at any time to win his first.
It's always the dream of tennis players to win in front of their home crowd, and luckily for Tsonga, the French Open is played in his home country. For that reason, he always has the Rolland Garros spectators on his side, and that can make a huge difference.
Winning the first clay Masters title of the season would show that Tsonga is at the top of his game going into the Slam that he enjoys the most.
At 30 years old, most players would be counted out of contention in big tournaments. David Ferrer's powerful and athletic game at this age has given us reason to believe that he isn't done yet, though, and he would certainly love to be the Cinderella Man that wins his first Slam as a veteran.
In 2012, Ferrer has already won two tournaments on clay, in Acapulco and Buenos Aires. These titles are much smaller than the Rolex Masters, but they still display his ability to compete on the clay surface.
Taking down a few big names on the road to the first Masters title of his career would turn him into a strong blip on the radar going into the French Open.
Currently sitting at the World No. 7 spot, Tomas Berdych would love to see himself rise into the Top 5 and win a Grand Slam (not necessarily in that order). Unfortunately for him, he isn't always considered a serious threat going into Rolland Garros.
So far in his career, Berdych has only seen two clay titles, and the last came back in 2009 (Munich). Clearly, it isn't his best surface.
That doesn't mean he can't do well, though, and a title in Monte-Carlo would put him on the map of clay court tennis just in time for the French Open.
Serbian Janko Tipsarevic basically came out of nowhere in 2011, ultimately leading to his participation as a substitute for Andy Murray in the ATP World Tour Finals. Although he didn't do too well in London, his surprise appearance set the stage for a possible breakout season in 2012.
So far, he hasn't broken out.
That seems like a lot to ask of a 27-year-old man who is playing during such a competitive time period in tennis history, but if he wants to make a name for himself, now is the time.
Taking home the 2012 Rolex Masters trophy would be doing just that.
Like Tipsarevic, American Mardy Fish had a late breakout season in 2011, reaching a career high No. 7 in the rankings. Epitomized by a second round departure at the Australian Open, his 2012 season is not off to a good start, and he is just barely holding onto the position of top-ranked American.
If he wants to still carry the United States torch of men's tennis, the Monte-Carlo tournament is an optimal time to impress the world and keep himself in contention for other big tournaments this season.
And finally, one of the biggest names of the 2012 tennis season so far: John Isner.
Formerly only known for his big serve and record-breaking marathon match in the 2010 Wimbledon first round, the 26-year-old American has developed a game strong and well-rounded enough to compete with any player on the ATP tour.
So far this year, he has beaten Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, both clear statements that he is ready to be the face of American tennis and take home some big titles.
Currently, Fish only sits 15 points above Isner, so a win in Monte-Carlo would make him the top-ranked American and a serious contender for the remaining Slams of 2012.