Rafa Plays Down Pressure

Rafael Nadal has won 46 tour-level titles on clay and holds a 325-25 record on the surface. As the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters commences, the Spaniard dubbed “King of Clay” enters the clay season on a different note than the past.

“I don’t have pressure this year,” said eight-time Monte-Carlo champion Nadal. “I’m not the favourite for anything. I have been playing worse than the rest of the rivals of mine. The pressure is not for me… I am arriving here with the motivation to do something better than what I am doing.”

The 28-year-old Mallorca native believes he needs to be more solid, play more consistenly and manage his timing better on points, but stresses confidence is key.

“The most important thing for me is to feel well on court again, feel confident, feel I am improving,” he said. “I was improving every week before Miami, and in Miami I played bad… If I’m able to find the confidence, to find the tennis here on clay, then it makes everything a little less difficult.

“I am working to be playing well as soon as possible, and if I didn’t believe that I could, I would not be here… If I am here it’s because I have the motivation, the passion, the emotion to keep playing tennis.”

April is historically the World No. 5’s most productive month, but last year Nadal’s streak of 83-straight match wins on clay in the month of April ended with a quarter-final loss to countryman David Ferrer in Monte-Carlo. The following week he fell in the quarter-finals in Barcelona (l. to Almagro). It was the first time since 2004 that Nadal failed to win an ATP World Tour title in April.

“When I lose, I lose; that’s it,” he said. “It’s not a thing that destroys me for a week. I am not happy, I am sad for a while… but you have to be ready to accept all the things that I can happen.”

Putting the past behind him, a pressure-free Nadal will open his Monte-Carlo campaign against the winner of Dominic Thiem and wild card Lucas Pouille in the second round.

“I’m feeling well. I’m always well in Monte-Carlo. I love being here… It’s good being back to clay, to my favourite part of the season and my favourite tournaments.”

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