Monte Carlo Masters-Donaldson's Rant

Rafael Nadal

GETTYRafael Nadal is a force on clay courts

"It's not great but first match on clay, I'm expecting [a] little soreness", Nishikori said.

Ahead of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, a cadre of ATP stars and British celebrities squared off in a charity exhibition chock-full of laughs and hijinks.

The 36-year-old swiss' decision to stay out of the clay season last year obviously paid off as he went on to Wimbledon and bagged the trophy and an extra title.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion split from Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek earlier this month and has been training with Vajda for the last 10 days in Monaco.

Concerning his health and spontaneity in the game as he's about to return fully to action, he said: "I feel good", he said.

"I've had a very hard time in the last 12 months with the injury and everything else that's happened", Djokovic said.

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But much has changed since that encounter on the sun-kissed Court Rainier III, and if the pair meet in the quarter-final stage of this year's tournament, it will be a slog to fell Nadal, who is in resurgent form atop the world rankings.

Nadal begins his bid for a record-extending 11th Monte Carlo title with a second-round match against either Aljaz Bedene or Mirza Basic. He's arguably not been at his best since losing to Roger Federer in five sets in the Australian Open final, but dropped just eight games across six sets against Kazakhstan in the Davis Cup just over a week ago on clay and is well-rested coming into this event. "That's why I am here, to play tennis and to accept all the rules". "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.

"The positive thing is probably you will control the time between points, but in the negative thing".

Nadal argued that it would be tougher for players to recover between lengthy rallies if restricted to just 25 seconds, especially in front of a vocal crowd. "Playing well below the desired level, it wasn't easy for me to cope".

Croatia's Marin Cilic said on Sunday he has his sights set on the top of the world rankings after his recent rise to number three.

These two have played once, which was in the 2016 Monte Carlo Masters, a match Nadal won in straight sets.

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