Thursday, 25 April, 2019

Djokovic makes Nadal favourite in Monte Carlo as Wawrinka wins opener

Roger Federer on clay Roger Federer will play on clay this spring after a two-year absence Credit AFP
Cassandra Castillo | 17 April, 2019, 11:37

As he discussed his hopes for the next couple of months at the Monte Carlo Country Club on Monday, Nadal admitted it had been "a tough year and a half", an inability to play more than a couple of weeks in a row costing him momentum on several occasions.

"After him, it's quite open", Djokovic said of the contenders on clay.

"It was incredible", Nadal said as he prepared for his Wednesday start at the Monte Carlo Masters, his first event in a month since withdrawing with knee issues at Indian Wells before a semi-final against Roger Federer.

"But I've had some (successful) Roland Garros tournaments in the past where I didn't win any of the big (clay) ones (Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome) before".

With Nadal out of action between last year's US Open and this year's Australian Open with knee trouble, an abdominal injury and then an ankle issue that required surgery, the stop-start nature of his past 18 months has left some wondering if this year's clay-court season could be more open than usual.

"He's been playing great tennis lately, winning two out of his last three events (Dubai and Miami with an Indian Wells final against Thiem)".

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A five-week break between Australia and Indian Wells cost Djokovic some momentum, and he had to answer many questions about his role, as president of the ATP Player Council, in the decision not to renew the contract of ATP president Chris Kermode at the end of this year.

Djokovic also believes in the power of Federer as the 37-year-old steps back onto the clay.

"I like where tennis is going, I like the development of the other young guys and it's gonna be interesting to see what it will be like in the future". The top seed can tie Nadal's record of 33 ATP Masters 1000 titles if he emerges victorious in the Principality. "I'm looking forward to playing this year". "I've had great form the past 12 months. That can serve only as an incentive so to say, or a confidence boost, prior to clay season". Novak Djokovic feels that the recent American ascendancy of Roger Federer would enliven his performance on the clay. That ranks second among active players, trailing only Nadal (92%).

He said: "Obviously clay is a completely different surface. It's very demanding physically, tactically, you have to be more patient, resilient, more enduring", Djokovic said. It is a slow surface.

"My game and everybody's game will be tested big-time, but that's why we're here".

"Let's see. My goal is to play a good tournament here in Monte-Carlo", he said. "The transformation of this club is quite fantastic compared to the other times of the year when you don't have a tournament it's really calm and there's not many people".

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