The top two players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, open their clay court season Wednesday at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Nadal faces Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen in his first match. Nadal hasn’t won a title since the French Open, but hopes the familiar Monte Carlo clay where he’s won seven straight times will get him back on track.
“I haven’t won a title [for 10 months], but how many finals have I played? Win or lose, it depends,” Nadal said. “Over the past three years, I have decided to play the big tournaments, against the best players, so the challenge is greater if you want to win those titles.”
Djokovic, who lost to Nadal in the Monte Carlo final in 2009, begins his quest for a French Open title against Italian Andreas Seppi.
“I know how to recover well, to be ready, and I’ve been working hard in my off season and [the week] that I had off after Miami to prepare for clay because clay requires physically much more from a tennis player than other surfaces,” Djokovic said. “It’s a slower surface, your endurance needs to be on a high level. You need to by physically strong to expect long matches and long rallies.”
Both Nadal and Djokovic have 6-0 head-to-head advantages over their respective opponents Wednesday.
On Facebook, Djokovic wrote, “Tomorrow is D day :) My first clay court match since Roland Garros ’11! It sounds like it was long time ago, but for me it feels like it was yesterday. I’m ready and excited and see you all tomorrow 2nd match from 10:30am. I’ll be the skinny one in white ;)”
David Ferrer and Gilles Simon are also in action on Court Central. Bernard Tomic battles Alexandr Dolgopolov and Marin Cilic meets Tomas Berdych on the Princes Court.
Winners from Tuesday include Andy Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Fernando Verdasco and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who celebrated his 27th birthday with a victory.
COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
[Q] F Gil (POR) vs  G Simon (FRA)
Not Before 12:00 PM
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs A Seppi (ITA)
J Nieminen (FIN) vs  R Nadal (ESP)
T Bellucci (BRA) vs  D Ferrer (ESP)
D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) vs  M Llodra (FRA) / N Zimonjic (SRB)
COURT DES PRINCES start 10:30 am
B Tomic (AUS) vs  A Dolgopolov (UKR)
J Benneteau (FRA) vs  J Melzer (AUT)
M Cilic (CRO) vs  T Berdych (CZE)
 K Nishikori (JPN) vs [WC] P Mathieu (FRA)
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