17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer made recent headlines when he decided to take part in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters for the first time since 2011. The Swiss No. 2 will begin his campaign in Monaco against Czech No. 2 Radek Stepanek, whom he has already encountered on the tour this season. This will mark the 16th time the two competitors meet on the ATP tour, with Federer leading the head-to-head series 13-2.
The 32-year-old began his 2014 season with a finals appearance in Brisbane, where he lost to Lleyton Hewitt. He would win his first title of the year in Dubai, beating Novak Djokovic in a three-set semifinal in the process. He would meet Djokovic a second time at the Indian Wells final, but would lose a close three-set battle. He would then suffer a surprising quarter-final loss to Kei Nishikori in Miami before deciding to join the Monte Carlo draw.
Stepanek earned his place in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters with a surprisingly quick straight-sets victory over towering Croat Ivo Karlovic. The world No. 41 rushed to a 3-0 lead in the opening set before closing it out 6-1. The dominant performance would continue into the second set, as Stepanek stormed to a 4-0 lead before closing it out 6-2.
Federer and Stepanek have met on 15 separate occasions over the past 12 years on the professional circuit. Out of those fifteen contests, Stepanek has only ever managed two victories against the Swiss No. 2, the last of which came on the clay courts in Rome in 2008. His only other win came six years prior to that, in their first ever meeting on the tour. Nine of Federer’s thirteen victories over Stepanek have come on hard court surfaces, while the Czech has never managed his own win over Roger on that particular surface. Both of Stepanek’s victories have come on clay, but he has not been competitive on that surface against Federer in six years. The 32 year old has won their last nine consecutive encounters, stretching back over six years and will be looking to add another win to that record tomorrow afternoon.
Prediction: Roger Federer in Straight Sets