Nadal downbeat as he prepares to play at Monte-Carlo Masters

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A year ago during the spring clay season, the Austrian beat Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev. "He came from injury and won the Australian Open (2017)".

Rafael Nadal is fueled to win his 12th Monte Carlo title.

That was on hard courts, however, and clay is kinder to the 32-year-old Nadal's battered knees. "He's still there", Djokovic said. His last visit to the Roland Garros stadium was in the year 2015 and since then Roger Federer did not step on the Parisien Terre Battue.

"I can't give you any feeling, it's been a rough year and a half for me", Nadal said.

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"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". He won French, he won all the big ones. You know, Indian Wells, Miami, he's won two out of three. Speaking in Monte Carlo, he reiterated that he "had a lot going on off the court".

"So it's always expected in a way from my side when I see him play, compete on any level on any surface that he's going to be at his best, that he's always going to be one of the candidates or favourites to win any tournament. That's the goal. I arrived here on Friday as usual, I had some hours of practice and I hope the competition puts me in the rhythm that I need". Definitely, for our sport, it's better that he plays. "That is what I will try, and I hope good things are coming in this clay court season".

"The beginning was a bit tough, I was hesitating, I was a bit slow, I was nervous and I was looking a little bit for the conditions", Wawrinka told the ATP Tour website. "That can serve only as an incentive".

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Novak Djokovic says beating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is one of the "ultimate challenges" in tennis as he prepares to begin his clay-court campaign at the Monte-Carlo Masters.

Djokovic said beating Nadal in a French Open final would top the lot, but as the clay-court season begins in earnest this week, he knows doing it will be extremely hard. "It's tough to have a clear view about how I am", said the second-seeded Spaniard. I have seen him (training) here, he's been here a few days. "If he's physically fit he's definitely the No. 1 guy on this surface, without a doubt".

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

Austrian Dominic Thiem, the runner-up to Nadal in Paris last summer and the victor in Indian Wells last month, said that even the other players are curious to see how a potential Djokovic-Nadal battle might turn out.

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