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Nadal: 'I Am Not The Favourite'

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Nadal© RealisNadal has won 42 straight matches in Monte-Carlo.

You probably know the stats by now. Rafael Nadal has won eight successive crowns at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, running up 42 wins in a row at the gateway of the European spring clay-court season.

This year, the Mallorcan enters the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court event on the back of 14 straight victories, his 600th career match win and three straight triumphs (Buenos Aires, Acapulco and Indian Wells) after making a remarkable return from a left knee injury that sidelined him for seven months. But despite all his early success in 2013 and his history at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, Nadal states he is not the favourite to hoist the trophy on Sunday.

“I don't feel I am the biggest favourite to win the tournament this year. It's not easy to win this tournament. I will go day by day,” Nadal told a media roundtable Monday. “It's not possible to win every year. Some day that's going to stop. I will try my best to make that happen, but that's life. Not everything is forever. But I am very excited to be here and have a high motivation to play well and put myself in position to have a good tournament. I am a candidate if I play my game.”

Given all he has overcome to put himself back in position among the elite stars of the ATP World Tour, the 22-time ATP World Tour Masters 1000 champion says this part of the tennis calendar is more meaningful than in years past.

“I am excited to play here and play this European clay-court season. It's one of the best parts of the year without a doubt,” said Nadal. “I really enjoy playing in all these tournaments. There are a lot of big emotions that happened in the past.

“But this year is probably more special because I had a really tough year. To be back and playing another time at these places is fantastic. I don't feel pressure that I've felt in years in the past, because I know all that happened, I cannot repeat all of this. But I'm going to try and be competitive and give [myself] chances to play well.”

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It was 10 years ago when Nadal made waves for the first time on the ATP World Tour. As a 16 year old, the future ‘King Of Clay’ stunned seventh-ranked countryman Albert Costa in the second round before falling to Guillermo Coria.

“I finished 2002 playing well at a lot of Futures and Challengers. I started 2003 playing indoors. I remember when I started playing on clay, I won the Challenger tournament in Barletta,” reflected Nadal. “To be here in 2003 was a really big dream. It was a tournament I saw on TV. I saw Spanish players having big success. To just be here was amazing. I love the tournament, the place and the conditions to play tennis. Since the first time I've played here, the feeling playing tennis has been fantastic.

“It was a very good loss to Coria. He played the final that year. I won against Kucera and Costa. It was an amazing tournament for me. It was the first big tournament I played. To play a competitive match against one of the best players of that moment was amazing for me.”

Nadal will open his campaign Wednesday against Marinko Matosevic or compatriot Fernando Verdasco.

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