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Djokovic praises Nadal ahead of Monte-Carlo: 'He's always a clear favourite on any clay court in the world'

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 15 Apr 2019
  • Djokovic labels Nadal the favourite for all clay court prizes this season
  • World No. 1 has beaten Nadal in their last two meetings in Monte-Carlo
  • Nadal is aiming to win a record 12th Monte-Carlo title this week
Novak Djokovic (PA Images)

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has declared Rafael Nadal as the favourite to win every clay-court match he contests over the coming months as the pair launch their respective European clay campaigns at the Monte-Carlo Masters this week.

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Djokovic has won his last two Monte-Carlo showdowns against Nadal, including snapping his extraordinary 46-match winning streak at the tournament in the 2013 final, while he also emerged victorious in the 2015 semi-finals. Djokovic is the only man to have beaten Nadal at all three clay ATP Masters 1000 events and also famously beat him in straight sets at the 2015 French Open, but his last victory over the Spaniard on clay came in 2016 - and the Serbian says Nadal is the big favourite to continue his dominance on the dirt.

“I think Rafa is obviously always a very clear favourite on any clay court in the world and that doesn’t change. He’s still there,” Djokovic said. “If he’s physically fit he’s definitely the No. 1 guy on this surface, without a doubt.”

Nadal, who hasn’t played since injuring his knee in Indian Wells last month, will be aiming to become the first player in history to win a single tournament 12 times if he emerges triumphant in the Principality again this week.

But while Nadal is once again chasing history on clay, Djokovic is firmly focused on recapturing his own best tennis after a couple of disappointing early exits on North American hardcourts.

After storming to the Australian Open title in January - crushing Nadal in straight sets in the final - Djokovic hasn’t been able to make an impact, losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round of Indian Wells and to Roberto Bautista Agut (who also beat him in Doha) in the fourth round of Miami.

“This is sport, it happens. Certainly I was disappointed because I thought I was playing better and better and I thought I could go far. But at the same time it is what it is and as I said I’ll try to look on the positive side,” Djokovic said. “I’ve had great form the past 12 months, great form. And other than those two tournaments, all the others I’ve played were at least the semi-finals or finals, most of the tournaments I played. That can serve only as an incentive so to say, or a confidence boost, prior to clay season.”

Djokovic also spoke about Roger Federer on the eve of the Monte-Carlo Masters, and even though the Swiss won’t be competing this week, he is set to return to clay in Madrid and the French Open.

The World No. 1 says the sport will benefit from seeing the 37-year-old playing on clay again and said Federer is near the top of the contenders list for the upcoming French Open.

"Roger playing (clay) again this season is great for tennis," he said. "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). It's as good as it gets.
"I don't see any particular issues for him on this (slow) surface. He's won all the big ones. He is who he is, I always expect the highest level from him - it's always there.
"He can be a favourite to win any tournament. He's got a better title chance at tournaments other than Roland Garros, but he has won it in the past (2009)."


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Djokovic praises Nadal ahead of Monte-Carlo: "He's always a clear favourite on any clay court in the world"

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has declared Rafael Nadal as the favourite to win every clay-court match he contests over the coming months as the pair launch their respective European clay campaigns at the Monte-Carlo Masters this week.

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