Nadal Building Towards No. 54 On Clay

There is a certain homely feel to a site where you have tasted considerable success there for well over a decade. Tucked away on the fringes of the Mediterranean, the Monte-Carlo Country Club is one such place for Rafael Nadal.

Last year, the Spaniard became the first man to win 10 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters crowns when he easily accounted for countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the final. He won eight straight finals on Court Rainier III from 2005-12 before Novak Djokovic broke his extraordinary winning streak in the 2013 final.

“Of course, there are places that you have special feelings in terms of you feel comfortable on court, you played a lot of times on this court, you know you had a lot of success. All these things help your self-confidence,” Nadal said after his opening victory over Aljaz Bedene on Wednesday.

“When you play in a place, it’s like you play in a golf club that you know very well. It is easier than when you play in a new golf club.

“I know a tennis court is always a tennis court, but at some point you know the court very well, you feel comfortable with it, you have been in that place lot of times competing. When you are inside the court, positive memories come to your mind, not negative memories. That’s always going to help.”

Victory in 2017 was a precursor to two further clay-court benchmarks – a 10th Barcelona title and 10th Roland Garros triumph. As it stands, the 31-year-old now boasts a record 53 clay-court trophies.

Nadal must retain his Monte-Carlo title, which would represent his 31st Masters 1000 crown, to remain at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. Roger Federer will return to the top spot on 23 April otherwise.

Russian Karen Khachanov is Nadal’s third-round opponent. The Spaniard will attempt to win his fourth straight match on clay for 2018 after two Davis Cup wins against Germany prior to his defeat of Bedene. His confidence is again building.

“Of course, when you play matches, you feel more comfortable, you feel more safe with your body, you feel stronger, too, physically,” Nadal said. “You feel less tired because you get used to the high intensity… When you play more in a row, [these] feelings come easier.”

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