In his clay opener, Rafael Nadal wasn’t at his sharpest but it was more then enough to get past Jarkko Nieminen today 6-4, 6-3 in the second round at the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters.
Nadal has now won 38th straight matches on the courts along the Mediterranean as he seeks an incredible 8th Monte Carlo title.
The Spaniard, however, still has concerns about his ailing knees.
“We need days to see how all the sensations improve: the knees, the tennis, everything,” said Nadal after his 12th straight win on clay. “When you stop for 15 days without practice, physical performance, practice tennis, your body loses a little bit the performance. That’s usual. I need practice, and today was a good practice. Tomorrow is going to be another tough match against a player who is dangerous. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Nadal faces Mikhail Kukushskin tomorrow.
Rafa’s main rival, Novak Djokovi, roughed up Andreas Seppi 6-1, 6-4 for his 7th straight match win.
“I thought I was really focused first set,” Djokovic said. “I played really good. I had a tough opponent, obviously, a quality opponent that plays good on clay. For the first official match [on clay] since Roland Garros last year, it was satisfying.”
Next up for Novak should be a good one against the unorthodox Alexandr Dolgopolov.
“I think you expect the unexpected with him,” Djokovic said about the Ukranian. “He’s a very talented player, comes up with some shots that, you know, are not really typical for a tennis player, what you would expect. He comes up with some dropshots. He changes the pace very much. That’s why he’s very dangerous on clay, which is a slower surface and it gives him more time to come up with his shots.”
The big result of the day belonged to Tomaz Bellucci who stunned clay favorite David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2.
“I didn’t play very well,” said Ferrer. “But my opponent, he was better than me in the first and second set, in every moment. I made lots of mistakes. I am not fast. He plays very aggressive, very consistent. He was better.”
On TV the commentators hinted Ferrer may have been injured. Bellucci’s a very tough player on clay but for Ferrer to lose that badly does make you wonder.
David’s exit really helps Djokovic who was seeded to meet Ferrer in the quarterfinals.
Tomas Berdych, Janko Tipsarevic, Kei Nishikori, Nicolas Almagro and Juliean Benneteau were also winners. Benneteau now meets Andy Murray Thursday while Berdych and Nishikori clash. The Scot appears to be the only player who can breakup a Djokovic-Nadal Sunday final. And in maybe the best match, JW Tsonga faces off against Fernando Verdasco.
Tennis Channel again has live wall-to-wall coverage!
THURSDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
 A Murray (GBR) vs J Benneteau (FRA)
Not Before 12:00 PM
 F Verdasco (ESP) vs  J Tsonga (FRA)
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs  A Dolgopolov (UKR)
[Q] M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs  R Nadal (ESP)
UPDATE: Djokovic in tears during practice. Novak’s 82-year-old grandfather passed away earlier today.
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Nadal Wins, Federer v Wawrinka in All-Swiss Thursday at Monte Carlo