But the six-time French Open champion has lost in seven straight finals to Djokovic, including the last three Grand Slam finals. Djokovic also handed Nadal his only two losses on clay last year, in the Madrid and Rome Masters.
“Nadal is the ultimate challenge on clay. He’s the King of Clay, the best player ever to play on this surface, and one of the best tennis players ever,” Djokovic said Sunday. “Winning in back-to-back finals against Rafa gives me a lot of confidence coming into the season now.”
Victory in Monte Carlo would be even sweeter for Djokovic, given that Nadal has won 37 consecutive matches in Monte Carlo and holds a 39-1 record.
Unlike the oppressive atmosphere of jam-packed Roland Garros in bustling western Paris, the Monte Carlo Country Club’s peaceful clay-courts overlooking the glittering Mediterranean sea are like a second home for Nadal.
It’s where it all started for him as a 16-year-old, when an astonishing victory over former French Open champion Albert Costa propelled him into the spotlight. Nine years later, he is the star everyone wants to beat.
But the top-ranked Djokovic, who lost to Nadal in the 2009 Monte Carlo final, is ready to end the Spaniard’s run, and maintain his recent dominance over the 10-time Grand Slam champion.
Overall, Nadal leads their series 16-14 but has not beaten Djokovic since a group-stage match at the 2010 ATP Finals in London.
Djokovic opens his campaign in the second round against either Andreas Seppi or a qualifier, while Nadal faces Radek Stepanek or Jarkko Nieminen.
Britain’s Andy Murray, who took a set off Nadal in an exciting semifinal last year, is seeded third and plays Serb Viktor Troicki in round two. Murray could meet No. 6 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.View Entire Story
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