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17 April 2018, 12:54 | Anna Jefferson
GETTYRafael Nadal is a force on clay courts
"It is one of the most attractive clubs in the world without a doubt".
The first of three Masters 1000 clay tournaments begins on Sunday as stars of the ATP tour take to the courts of the Monte Carlo Country Club, looking to stop Rafael Nadal from clinching a record-extending 11th trophy there.
With Nadal such a dominant favourite - his clay data is superb, but he's not been fully fit this year in reality following retirement in the Australian Open quarter-final - no other player is in single-digit numbers for the title, which gives us some scope for trading or each-way value. Nadal has won 15 of his last 16 matches on clay court. Nadal has never been bounced in the second round of the Monte-Carlo Masters.
Both players started the match pretty well, firing some impressive winners with this slowly shaping up to be an outstanding contest.
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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. "For me mentally the second one was even harder than what happened in Australia, even if Australia was a Grand Slam and was an opportunity lost".
Doubts had remained over his fitness after a recurring hip injury forced him out of Acapulco Open in February. "I had some good days of practice here, playing some good sets", Nadal said. He's arguably not been at his best since losing to Roger Federer in five sets in the Australian Open final, but dropped just eight games across six sets against Kazakhstan in the Davis Cup just over a week ago on clay and is well-rested coming into this event.
"He knows me better than any tennis coach I've worked with". Then I felt great practising in Acapulco, playing very well, but then just the day before. The more free points, the better chance Bedene has of pulling off a rather big upset.
"Seeded nine, Djokovic, who is struggling to pick up the pace after an elbow injury, could face Nadal in the semi-finals although just getting a win under his belt would be a relief for the 30-year-old who triumphed in Monte Carlo in 2013 and 2015".
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