I'm not untouchable on clay, insists Nadal
Updated: 2011-04-13 08:02
Rafael Nadal began preparing for his bid for an unprecedented seventh straight title at the Monte Carlo Masters by saying that previous successes cannot be a guide to future performances. Marwan Naamani / Agence France-Presse
MONTE CARLO - Rafael Nadal began laying the groundwork on Monday for his bid for an unprecedented seventh straight title at the Monte Carlos Masters by damping down the growing belief that he is all but untouchable on clay.
"I may have more options on clay," said the world No 1 Spaniard who stands 34-1 at the venue with his only loss coming in the third round in his first appearance in 2003.
Since then he's reeled off 32 straight match wins and is the only player in the post-1968 Open era to win six straight titles in a tournament.
"But I don't feel unbeatable, I know I can lose," said the player who should be coming into his element as his favourite part of the ATP season begins with a second-round match after a bye against against journeyman Finn Jarkko Nieminen who defeated Frenchman Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).
Nadal has scheduled a Tuesday practise session with Andy Murray, with the Scot sure to be watching the clay king closely as Murray tries to lift from a slump which has resulted in four straight losses in 2011.
Nadal said that previous years of success - he won all four clay events he played in 2010 - cannot be a guide for future performance but did admit that his 2010 title victory which broke an 11-month trophy drought was particularly pleasing.
"I played perhaps my best tennis ever here," as he won his sixth title on the site and did not drop a set along the way.
"It was the turning point of my season, I then played at my best clay level (in winning Rome and Madrid)."
Nadal said that each season starts afresh and is making no predictions about how well he might perform after a somewhat disappointing March in which he lost Masters 1000 finals in the United States to Novak Djokovic, who is sitting out Monte Carlo with a knee injury.
"We will see if it is possible to win all the clay events," Nadal said of the upcoming campaign which likely starts for him on Wednesday.
"I'm only focusing on the first match, I don't look any farther ahead."
In early matches in warm sunshine on the Mediterranean, German Florian Mayer put out Russian 10th seed Mikhail Youzhny, who has only once reached the third round, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Serb 11th seed Vikor Troicki beat the principality's entrant, Jean-Rene Lisnard, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.
Meanwhile, Murray spoke of his chances as the Scot comes onto clay determined to start putting his season right as he struggles to escape the malaise which has again befallen his game after an Australian Open final defeat.
As he continues the search for a permanent coach, the 23-year-old world No 4 said that he must change his mindset once he steps onto the spring surface.
"Movement is key, and you have to realise that there will be upsets," said Murray.
"You need patience to play well on clay, you have to do so much running."
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