The clay court season has officially arrived with the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters kicking off this week, and for Rafa that’s always good news. He’s won this tournament and incredible 7 straight times. Although he’s got to be the heavy favorite, it certainly won’t be a stroll in the park. There’s many great young talent on the rise, such as Juan Monaco from Argentina and Amalgro from Spain. He’s proven to be a bit vulnerable physically and has struggled getting back to the winners circle having lost to Djokovic at the Australian Open and Federer in Indian Wells. With the spectacular views overlooking the Mediterranean from just about every court at the Monte Carlo Country Club, it’s one of those tournaments you got to put on your short list of attending.
Seven-time Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters champion Rafael Nadal insisted on Monday, “it is a pleasure to be back at one of the best clubs in the world.”
Speaking at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, where he has a 39-1 record, the World No. 2 said, “It is a tournament with a lot of history for me. It is a place where I have had the most success and I am very happy and excited to play here. I think I have done well here, perhaps because of luck, but also [because of] the conditions. I believe I always play my best tennis here.”
Despite Nadal’s dominance on clay courts, he admitted it takes time for him to get used to playing on clay courts.
“I need time, hours on court,” said Nadal. “I need to play matches and practise to be comfortable on court. I cannot walk straight onto clay and be okay. I started playing four days ago. I just need to be patient and be ready for Wednesday.”
The 25-year-old Spaniard has a 231-18 career record (.928) on red dirt, including 32 titles, and leads the FedEx ATP Reliability Index (since 1973).
“I have always been nervous [at the start of tournaments],” he admitted. “I have lots of success on clay in the past, so I want to do well.
“I haven’t won a title [for 10 months], but how many finals have I played? Win or lose, it depends. Over the past three years, I have decided to play the big tournaments, against the best players, so the challenge is greater if you want to win those titles.”
Nadal will be looking to lift his 20th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy this week. He will begin his Monte-Carlo campaign against Jarkko Nieminen.
Michael Bernstein is president of Championship Tennis Tours. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tennistours.com.
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