Nadal smitten in Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal

Nadal will be returning to competitive action this week in Monte-Carlo but is a little crestfallen that his anticipated rival and competitor Roger Federer will not be playing in this year's clay court session.

The 36-year-old Federer ruled himself out of the whole of the claycourt season, after skipping the same period last year and going on to win Wimbledon. "I think it needs to be slightly balanced but I think it can be good for tennis to have something like that". Then the doctors told me: "'You will not be able to play in Indian Wells, Miami.' So that was hard to accept".

But with Federer once again skipping the claycourt season, former US Open victor Cilic believes becoming the world's best player is a realistic goal after an excellent start to the year.

"I did all the things the right way, practicing one week before, to be ready for the tournament and then it happened", Nadal told reporters.

Nadal begins his bid for a record-extending 11th Monte Carlo title with a second-round match against either Aljaz Bedene or Mirza Basic.

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Former world number one Novak Djokovic showed indications of rediscovering his sort with a dominating 6-0 6 1 success over Dusan Lajovic from the opening round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Monday.

But much has changed since that encounter on the sun-kissed Court Rainier III, and if the pair meet in the quarter-final stage of this year's tournament, it will be a slog to fell Nadal, who is in resurgent form atop the world rankings. Nadal is one of the slowest top-ranked players, and was docked a first serve for taking too much time during a match en route to his 10th French Open triumph a year ago. "So after two years, finally I can play without pain". The 21-year-old American got irate with a call when Ramos-Vinolas was serving at 3-2, 40-0 in the second set. "In my experience, on the tennis court, the crowd gets more insane, the crowd gets more emotional and enjoys the match with more passion when you play good points". This sounds fairly tough, but in a 56-man Masters draw, easy draws don't tend to occur, and players will have to perform well to make it through to the latter stages.

A player who has somewhat of experience with the shot clock, Croatian star Marin Cilic has given his say on what he has noticed about the new system.

-Tennis Channel Plus has multi-court coverage of the 2018 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters beginning Sunday April 16 at 7:00 AM ET, first to last ball!

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