Nadal All Smiles In Monte-Carlo

Rafael Nadal insists he has never been good with numbers, but with the sun shining at the Monte-Carlo Country Club a familiar smile has returned to his face.

The Spaniard’s record at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters is staggering — 10 titles from 11 finals, a 46-match winning streak from 2005-13 and a 63-4 mark overall. But the tournament’s oldest champion in the Open Era (at 30 years, 10 months in 2017) is clear this week on his primary objective: to complete the tournament.

After more than two weeks on the red dirt, muscle memory in how he moves, plays and constructs points is already well-developed and Nadal, with a good report from his doctor, is hoping a hip injury that has hindered his time on court in 2018 will cooperate at the start of the spring European clay swing. “I’m not practising thinking about it,” Nadal told media on Sunday.

In steadily building up his training, after a two-day break from tennis earlier in the week, Nadal insists, “I am not very good with numbers, but I feel good and I am practising well. I think I am playing with the right intensity and I have a couple of days left until my first match. I haven’t competed enough to know 100 per cent that I will be at my best, but the feelings are good… I’ve played some good sets and that helps me.

“I love this event and the weather has been good. Being in Monte-Carlo always gives me the best feelings possible and good memories. When the time comes to play, I need to be at my best. This is my first event of the year, that I hope I can finish and I am excited about that… I always try to be very focused at the beginning of the tournament on what I’m doing. Every match I win is very important.”

Nadal, who enters his 170th week at No. 1, tying American John McEnroe for the sixth-most weeks in ATP Rankings history, must retain his Monte-Carlo crown to remain in the top spot or his Swiss rival, Roger Federer, will take over the position on 23 April.

The 31-year-old admitted that since sustaining his hip injury against Marin Cilic in the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, then withdrawing on the eve of Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC due to a recurrence of the injury after a practice session with Adrian Mannarino, he has struggled with an enforced sedentary lifestyle.

“Mentally, it was even harder the second time,” said Nadal. “The second one was frustrating because I’d done everything the right way to recover… I returned to Mallorca and it was tough not to have the opportunity to play tennis.

“If you’re injured and you’re able to do different things, play golf and different sports, it distracts you. But with this injury I couldn’t do anything – no physical work and every movement I did, it affected the injury. I don’t like not doing anything, so I spent time in the offices of the Rafael Nadal Academy checking different areas. I couldn’t be on the court [hitting with children] though as I couldn’t move. I am not a fan of watching a lot of TV, so I also spent time with friends and went out on the boat for a couple of days.”

Nadal, who is participating in his second tournament of the year, will start his bid on Wednesday for an 11th Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters title against Aljaz Bedene or lucky loser Mirza Basic. The Spaniard has been drawn in the same half of the draw as Grigor Dimitrov, Dominic Thiem, David Goffin and Novak Djokovic.

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