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Despite injury-plagued year, Rafael Nadal remains King of Clay

17 April 2019

"But I've had some (successful) Roland Garros tournaments in the past where I didn't win any of the big (clay) ones (Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome) before". "I'm looking forward to playing this year".

"I think Rafa is always a very clear favorite on any clay court in the world, and it doesn't change - he's still there", Djokovic said. "He's the number one guy on this surface without a doubt".

"It's true that there are a lot of issues that happened in the previous year and a half that could be a moment to be a little bit frustrated, but being honest, every time I've had the chance to be back, I competed", Nadal said. But in Miami I was already playing better tennis than I have in Indian Wells, so I'll try to pick that up from there and see how it goes on clay.

As he discussed his hopes for the next couple of months at the Monte Carlo Country Club on Monday, Nadal admitted it had been "a tough year and a half", an inability to play more than a couple of weeks in a row costing him momentum on several occasions.

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"So it's always expected in a way from my side when I see him play, compete on any level on any surface that he's going to be at his best, that he's always going to be one of the candidates or favourites to win any tournament". There are a lot of guys who are tough on clay, especially Rafa and Novak (Dkjokovic).

"He's been playing great tennis lately, winning two out of his last three events (Dubai and Miami with an Indian Wells final against Thiem)".

"All of our games will be tested big-time - but that's why we're here", Djokovic said of the slow Monte Carlo clay, which might be made even heavier by wet weather predicted for later in the week. "I've had great form the past 12 months".

That feeling should help him for the start of yet another comeback, a situation he has been in many times before, and one from which he has usually regained top form, fast. "That can serve only as an incentive, so to say, or confidence boost prior to clay season".

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Both players have byes to the second round here, and are due to play Tuesday or Wednesday. - Rafael Nadal won 46 straight matches in Monte-Carlo from 2005-13, but Djokovic brought that streak to an end in the 2013 final, putting on a clinical display to defeat the Spaniard in straight sets and lift his first title at the Masters 1000 tournament.

For top seed Novak Djokovic, who resides in Monte-Carlo, it just feels like playing the competition at home.

"I can't wait to step on court, I've been training hard", he said on a rainy opening day of the Masters 1000. In that tournament the German single hander Kohlschreiber beat Djokovic in 2 straight sets 6-4, 6-4 to score his second career win against the legendary Serbian.

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Despite injury-plagued year, Rafael Nadal remains King of Clay