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Nadal Seeks Eighth Straight Monte-Carlo Crown

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is the only former champion in the Monte-Carlo field.

The Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the season, gets underway Sunday with seven of the Top 10 and 14 of the Top 20 overall competing.

The only former champion in the field is reigning seven-time winner Rafael Nadal, who is 39-1 lifetime at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Last season Nadal compiled a 28-2 record on clay with his lone losses to rival Novak Djokovic in the Madrid and Rome finals. The 25-year-old Mallorcan has put together an eye-popping 204-8 mark (.962) on clay since 2005. The last player to win the Monte-Carlo title prior to Nadal's dominance was Guillermo Coria in 2004.

Although Nadal is the favorite to win an eighth straight title, World No. 1 and Monte-Carlo resident Djokovic is the top seed for the second time in three years. In his last appearance two years ago Djokovic lost in the semi-finals. He reached the final in 2009 and semi-finals in '08.

Djokovic opens his season clay court campaign against a qualifier or Andreas Seppi and the first seed he could meet is No. 16 Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third round. In the quarter-finals, he could take on No. 5 David Ferrer or No. 11 Juan Monaco. Ferrer reached the final last year and the Spaniard has a 21-8 career mark in Monte-Carlo, reaching the quarter-finals or better in six of the past seven years. Monaco is making his fifth visit to Monte-Carlo and he is 4-4 with a third round in '09 his best result.

In the second quarter of the draw, No. 3 seed and two-time semi-finalist Andy Murray opens against the winner of Viktor Troicki and Jean-Rene Lisnard. The first seed Murray could meet is No. 15 Jurgen Melzer in the third round and in the quarter-finals, Murray could take on No. 6 Tomas Berdych or No. 12 Kei Nishikori. Berdych's best result was the semi-finals in '07 and he plays a qualifier or former Top 10 Marin Cilic in the second round. Nishikori is making his debut in Monte-Carlo.

In the bottom half of the draw, No. 4 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the highest seed in the third quarter. The Frenchman opens against Philipp Kohlschreiber or a qualifier. In the third round, he could meet No. 13 and 2010 runner-up Fernando Verdasco. Former World No. 3 and Monte-Carlo resident Ivan Ljubicic is playing his final tournament and he takes on countryman Ivan Dodig. Tsonga could face No. 7 seed Janko Tipsarevic or No. 9 Gilles Simon in the quarter-finals. Tipsarevic will open against the winner of Milos Raonic-Albert Montanes.

In the final quarter, No. 2 Nadal opens against the Radek Stepanek-Jarkko Nieminen winner and in the third round. Nadal could meet No. 14 Florian Mayer. In the quarter-finals, countrymen No. 8 Nicolas Almagro and No. 10 Feliciano Lopez are possible opponents. Lopez has a tough opener against Swiss No. 2 Stanislas Wawrinka, who reached the semi-finals in '09. Lopez has never won back-to-back matches in eight previous appearances.

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