It bodes well that Roger Federer hasn't made the trip to the Monte Carlo Masters because, with the uncertainty that surrounds this first big tournament of the European clay court season, it would have been a certainty that he wouldn't go home with the title.
The obvious favorites for the Monte Carlo crown are unsurprisingly Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, with the latter player arguably having the tougher draw. Djokovic, meanwhile, enters this tournament fresh from a two week break after his triumph at the Miami Masters and just shades the race for the favorite tag.
Andy Murray would be my pick for dark horse but with caution. David Ferrer will always leave everything on the field of play, Juan Martin Del Potro can go up the gears in a matter of minutes and the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Nicholas Almagro and Gilles Simon can raise the blood pressure a couple of mercury numbers.
Who will win? In my opinion, the tournament is Djokovic's to lose. Unfortunately for him though, I think his exploits of last year and the early parts of this year are starting to catch up with him. He is looking a little slower mentally and a little tired and we saw proof of this in the second set lapses in concentration he suffered in Miami.
Monte Carlo has always been Nadal's date with destiny, but you never know with Nadal nowadays. I think he will win, but we also know that he is a slow starter. Will he have built up enough for a probable meeting with Djokovic in the final? That's the million dollar question. Djokovic will be in or around the level he needs to be. However, will Nadal?
I think it's a smart decision by Roger Federer not to play Monte Carlo. The very same decision served Djokovic well last year and it could this time for Federer.
Ultimately, events at Monte Carlo are unlikely to have a great effect on the outcome of the French Open title, but third in importance to a player behind confidence and experience is momentum—and as such, a win here can only do one good.