• Monaco meets Gulbis in Monte-Carlo second round

    4/16/13 7:58 PM | Ricky Dimon
    Monaco meets Gulbis in Monte-Carlo second round An intriguing second-round encounter on Wednesday in Monte-Carlo pits Juan Monaco against Ernests Gulbis. Monaco is coming off a Houston semifinal while Gulbis has won 17 of his last 18 matches.

    Juan Monaco and Ernests Gulbis will be squaring off for the fourth time in their careers when they clash in round two of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Wednesday.

    Monaco leads the head-to-head series 2-1, including 1-0 on clay. Their only previous encounter on the slow stuff came six years ago in Bastad, where the Argentine prevailed 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4. He also scored a 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-1 victory at the 2010 Australian Open after Gulbis won by retirement a few months earlier in Tokyo.

    It has been a tale of two seasons in 2013 for Monaco and Gulbis. Monaco, who peaked as high as No. 10 in the world last summer, dealt with physical problems in Australia and he did not win a single ATP tournament match until last week in Houston. The world No. 20 is now 6-7 for the year (including three Davis Cup victories) following a run to the Houston semifinals and a straight-set dismissal of Martin Klizan on Tuesday.

    Gulbis is taking an opposite path. The Latvian slumped throughout 2012 but he is 14-3 at the ATP main-draw level this season (three wins have come against lower-level Davis Cup competition). Including qualifiers, Gulbis has won 17 of his last 18 matches and the only man to beat him during this stretch is Rafael Nadal. The world No. 56 captured the Delray Beach title, reached the fourth round in Indian Wells, and he overcame John Isner 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in his Monte-Carlo opener.

    Monaco may be known as a more accomplished clay-court player, but Gulbis is a former French Open quarterfinalist (2008) and Rome semifinalist (2009). The No. 14 seed's main weakness is his second serve, and Gulbis will have plenty of time on clay to set up and crush returns. Having been in Monte-Carlo for more than a week while Monaco toiled in Houston, an in-form Gulbis should advance in three sets.

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