With a ranking of 18 in the world on the ATP tour - it's easy to understand why the Castellón de la Plana born, Roberto Bautista-Agut will want to use this first big clay court tournament to underline his potential for the 2nd slam of the season - The French Open 2017.

Bautista-Agut is growing in stature for self and country

It's been a steady start to the season, with the hard court not being this Spaniard favoured surface so a 4th round defeat in the season's first Grand Slam - Australian Open 2017, to Milos Raonic represented a good showing.

The best performance this season for proud Spaniard Bautista-Agut - came in February's Davis Cup tie against Croatia when he survived a scare to beat Franko Skugor under immense pressure, in four sets to facilitate a comeback 3-2 victory.

Nadal, Murray, Djokovic and Stan 'The Man' Wawrinka all-line up, but Roberto is a dark horse

The Monte Carlo Masters is definitely the first dress rehearsal for The French Open 2017. All of the top players bar the man of the moment Roger Federer take part and the above list provides the past 12 winners, with Nadal taking up way more than his fair share of victories in this illustrious tournament.

This is why BETFRED are currently offering odds of 66/1 for Bautista-Agut to win in Monte Carlo. It is submitted that this dark horse player with a career win/loss record of 44/29 on clay - is a great value each way bet. This is especially the case given that Nadal, still very much the bench mark on clay, is not currently firing on all cylinders and Djokovic has had a poor start to the season, Murray is returning from an injury absence and Wawrinka has looked tame in a couple of defeats to Federer this season.

Doors could open quickly for Roberto in this tournament.

Clambering out of Nadal's shadow

Roberto has only played Nadal once in a ranking event, losing in straight sets at the 2014 Madrid Masters, semi-final stage. He will be keen to pit his wits against Nadal and level that head-to-head record and get people to take note that there is more than one player in Spain capable of doing big things.

A victory over Nadal in Monte Carlo should they meet in the quarter-finals would be a giant leap towards helping this Castellón de la Plana born dark horse, once and for all, step out of his compatriot's shadow and earn the recognition he deserves in his own right. He will have to beat Dimitrov in the round of 16 first, should he get there, but he is more than capable of doing so.

Roberto will use Monte Carlo to mould his clay court season

Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili is first up for Roberto, who holds a 1-0 straight sets head-to-head lead over the Georgian by courtesy of a win at Wimbledon in 2015.

It is extremely hard to see a reason why that form should be reversed, especially on a surface more favourable to the Spaniard. Roberto could use this pipe opener as a stepping stone to the tournament of his life.