Monte Carlo Masters preview and prediction: Clay court season begins in earnest

Rafael Nadal could face Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters quarter-finals next week

Rafael Nadal could face Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters quarter-finals next week

The other quarter boasts a clutch of men who could make the final: Lucas Pouille (one title from three finals this year, two clay wins in Davis Cup against Italy, and semi-finalist in Monaco last year), Diego Schwartzman (champion on Rio's clay), Fognini (six clay titles from 12 clay finals), and Zverev (champion in Rome and Munich last year).

After being forced to retire from his last-eight clash with Marin Cilic in Melbourne, he briefly lost his top spot to Roger Federer. "It's obvious that sometimes when you play a rally with 56 shots as I did with Novak (Djokovic) a couple of years ago in the final (US Open 2013), you can not expect a good point if you have 25 seconds on the next point", said the 16-time Grand Slam champion. "I had some good days of practice here, playing some good sets", Nadal said ahead of the start of the claycourt season. He was really genuinely wanting to help and to give me advices and to share his experience with me.

Nadal will play an ATP Tour event for the first time in 2018 when he takes the court at the Monte Carlo Masters, which begins Sunday.

Rafael Nadal is wary of saying he's fully recovered from a troublesome right thigh injury as he defends his Monte Carlo Masters title.

Rafael Nadal, the ten time champion and world #1, leads the draw in Monte Carlo.

Former world number one Novak Djokovic showed signs of rediscovering his form with a dominant 6-0 6-1 victory over Dusan Lajovic in the opening round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Monday.

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"I thought it was good considering the amount of matches I've played in the past nearly 12 months". There was small drought in 2015 and 2016 before he came back to win the French Open and the US Open in 2017.

However, there were shoots of life that suggested the 12-time Grand Slam champion may be on the road back to his best form. "Hope I get more confidence and do well (at) these five tournaments on clay".

"I just felt like I needed a change, completely change, not only the coach but the manager and the fitness coach and the physio, a completely different view to the tennis, how we're going to work, a different approach", explains Coric.

World number 51 Jared Donaldson confronted an umpire after disagreeing with a call made in his first-round defeat by last-year's finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The Spaniard was dominant previous year on clay and has typically been head-and-shoulders above the rest on the surface throughout his career.

"After two years finally I can play without pain", he added.

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