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Nadal Chasing Ninth Monte-Carlo Crown

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal has won the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters eight years in a row.

Rafael Nadal could face Andy Murray in the semi-finals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters as he bids to win the title for the ninth year in a row. The 26-year-old Spaniard has lost just one match in four tournaments since his return in Vina del Mar from a seven-month injury lay-off. He claimed clay-court titles in Sao Paulo and Acapulco before triumphing at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on hard court (d. del Potro).

The Spaniard is seeded No. 3 at the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament of the year and is also in the same half of the draw as No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 10 Nicolas Almagro and No. 13 Stanislas Wawrinka.

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The 26-year-old Nadal has a staggering 44-1 event record at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, with his only defeat coming as a 16 year old on his tournament debut in 2003 (l. to Coria in 3rd RD). In a re-match of the 2010 final, Nadal could face countryman Fernando Verdasco in the second round, should Verdasco overcome Australian Marinko Matosevic in his opener. Nadal is seeded to meet No. 16 Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round and has a projected meeting with either eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic or No. 11 Gilles Simon in the quarter-finals.

Second seed Murray heads up the bottom half of the draw and is bidding to reach the final of an ATP World Tour clay-court tournament for the first time. The Scot, who is coming off his 26th tour-level title in Miami, opens his campaign against either Robin Haase, a quarter-finalist this week in Casablanca, or a qualifier. Switzerland’s Wawrinka is a potential third-round opponent for Murray, with Almagro and Tsonga both possible quarter-final challenges.

Should Murray and Nadal contest the Monte-Carlo semi-finals, it would be their 19th meeting. Nadal leads their head-to-head series 13-5, including a victories over the Scot in the 2009 and 2011 Monte-Carlo semi-finals.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic looks to have recovered from his right ankle injury in time to lead the 56-player field. The Serb practised at the Monte-Carlo Country Club with his coach, Marian Vajda, for 50 minutes on Friday and took part in a fun exhibition with Murray outside the Hotel de Paris on Saturday. 

The 25-year-old Djokovic begins his tournament on Wednesday against either Mikhail Youzhny or Daniel Gimeno-Traver. One of the most intriguing matches of the first round sees Ernests Gulbis face John Isner, with the winner a possible third-round opponent for Djokovic; 14th seed Juan Monaco is also in that section. Fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro is Djokovic’s projected quarter-final opponent, but the Argentine could face competition from 12th seed Milos Raonic, who opens against Julien Benneteau, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Bernard Tomic.

Tomas Berdych is seeded fourth, following the withdrawal of recent Miami finalist David Ferrer due to injury. The Czech faces either Marcel Granollers or a qualifier in the second round and could meet 15th seed Andreas Seppi in the third round. Seventh seed Richard Gasquet, a semi-finalist in 2005, is on course to meet Berdych in the quarter-finals and has a potential third-round meeting with ninth seed Marin Cilic. The in-form Kevin Anderson and Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz are also in that section.

Main draw play begins on Sunday, 14 April, at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

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