BY JAMES BECK
Rafa Nadal was the smart one. Of course, along with Carlos Alcaraz.
They skipped Monte Carlo.
Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas didn’t. And they took their medicine.
Elimination before the quarterfinals ended.
Jannik Sinner probably is singing the Italian fight song. The tall, thin Italian looks more dangerous every time he step on a tennis court. He just needs to win one of the big ones to possibly take off and fly away with a Grand Slam title.
IS ALCARAZ THE BEST?
Looking at the situation, I would say at this point of the season, Alcaraz probably is the best player in the world, followed by Medvedev and Sinner.
What? No Djokovic or Nadal up top.
If you listen to one of the broadcasters/announcers in Monte Carlo, Djokovic is in a tennis world above everyone else. After Djokovic’s loss in Monte Carlo, the announcer called Djokovic the “greatest tennis player in history.”
Don’t tell Rod Laver, Roger Federer or Nadal.
Yes, they all are or were great.
WATCH OUT FOR THE TOP 5
Djokovic and Nadal are my Nos. 4s. And Tsitsipas is No. 6.
I expect the top five of those to dominate Europe’s two Grand Slams.
I’m probably not alone.
Of course, there’s Taylor Fritz of the U.S., Andrey Rublev, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini, Holger Rune and new threat (Djokovic beater) Lorenzo Musetti waiting around to make their move into the elite group.
That’s a dozen players to watch.
PROPERTY CHANGING HANDS?
The European red clay and grass seasons may no longer be the property of Nadal and Djokovic.
These are new seasons filled with players that still have to make a true mark on the pro tour.
Casper Ruud, along with veteran Grand Slam tournament winners Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem, and veterans Grigor Dimitrov, Diego Schwartzman, Karen Khachonov, Hubert Hurkacz and even Richard Gasquet are worth an upset or two, but probably not dangerous enough to reach into the last 16.
Of course, it all probably comes back to those top six or better yet top five, four of whom have won Grand Slam titles within the last two years.
Oh, Oh! Don’t forget Nick Kyrgios.
The most talented guy on the planet can’t be overlooked. That is, if Nick’s injured knee gets the green light in Europe.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.