More Monte-Carlo Magic On Nadal's Mind
Eight times Rafael Nadal has reigned as king of Monte-Carlo and the Spaniard has his sights set on a return to the winners' circle in the Principality.
One of Nadal's happy hunting grounds, where he boasted an untouchable dynasty from 2005-'12, the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters has been a home away from home for the 29 year old. With a run to the semi-finals at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells at his back, he says he is playing with the right mentality to open what he hopes to be another fruitful European clay-court season.
"It's always good to be here," said Nadal. "I always have special feelings and I'm happy to be back. It's the right place to be to play tennis. I had good practices in Mallorca and here and I hope to be ready for the action... I am here to try my best in every match and I don't know how far I can go, but I will try my best to play well.
"I don't have the stressful feelings like I had last year. I'm feeling much better with myself. The confidence is always the same. After Indian Wells, my confidence has been very high. I want to start the competition now and we'll see how I play here."
Nadal arrives at the first clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event of the year seeded fifth, slated to open against either Lukas Rosol or Aljaz Bedene. A potential quarter-final encounter against fourth seed and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka looms large, but the Manacor native says he is taking it one step at a time in his return to Monte-Carlo. A second-round exit two weeks ago in Miami, having retired against Damir Dzumhur due to illness, was merely a hiccup after what was a very successful campaign in Indian Wells.
"It was an important tournament and one that I like a lot," Nadal said about Indian Wells, where he notched his first Top 10 win of the year over Kei Nishikori. "It always gives me positive feelings and energy. I played well, won a few matches against tough opponents. I had the right result there, but it's disappointing what happened in Miami. It was an accident and part of sport life. I want to continue going in a similar way."
As Nadal embarks on his quest to lift the trophy in the Principality for the first time in four years, he admits he is not the one to beat. That honour rests with World No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic.
"Everybody wants to be in his position now. When you win it's easier to keep winning and when you lose it's easier to keep losing. It's always those same dynamics, especially with an unbelievable player like him. It's difficult to stop. He's going to be the favourite for every tournament until somebody shows something different. He's the player of the moment without a doubt. Everyone sees him as the winner."
Nadal will begin his bid for a ninth Monte-Carlo crown on Wednesday.