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Nadal Hits The Clay With History On His Mind

Spaniard will try to win his 10th title at three tournaments, catch Federer in the Race

Rafael Nadal will have two championship themes on his mind when the clay swing heats up in Monte-Carlo, beginning on Sunday: the opportunity to win three tournaments for a record 10th time in his career, and the chance to catch Roger Federer and take over the No. 1 spot in the Emirates ATP Race To London.

Nadal, who's climbed to No. 2 in the Race with final runs in Australia and Miami, can't catch Federer at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the season's first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay court tournament. But another crown in the Principality – and the 1,000 Race points that come with it – would go a long way towards pushing the Spaniard ahead of the Swiss.

The 35-year-old Federer currently leads Nadal by 1,810 points in the Race. But Federer plans to rest until Roland Garros, which starts 28 May, and, given Nadal's past success before Roland Garros, the Spaniard could very well catch Federer before Paris.

See Who's Chasing Federer, Nadal

Since 2009, Nadal has gained an average of 2,448 points at the four biggest clay tournaments before Roland Garros: the three Masters 1000 tournaments – Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Mutua Madrid Open, Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome – and the Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell, an ATP World Tour 500 event. At the four tournaments, Nadal has won a combined 29 titles.

Nadal On Clay Leading Into Roland Garros

Year Monte-Carlo Barcelona Madrid Rome Total Points
2016 Won (1,000) Won (500) SF (360) QF (180) 2,040
2015  SF (360) 3R (45) Final (600) QF (180) 1,185
2014  QF (180) QF (90) Won (1,000) Final (600) 1,870
2013  Final (600) Won (500) Won (1,000) Won (1,000) 3,100
2012 Won (1,000)  Won (500) 3R (90) Won (1,000) 2,590
2011  Won (1,000) Won (500) Final (600) Final (600) 2,700
2010  Won (1,000) DNP Won (1,000) Won (1,000) 3,000
2009 Won (1,000) Won (500) Final (600) Won (1,000) 3,100

The Spaniard has looked confident during the first three months of the season. He started the year by racing to the Australian Open title match (l. to Federer) and backed it up with a final run in Acapulco (l. to Querrey). Earlier this month, Nadal made his fifth Miami Open presented by Itau final before again falling to Federer.

“I think I am close to what I need to be. I am at a very high level of tennis and I believe I am ready to win titles,” Nadal said. “I'm playing well enough to fight for everything. I have good hopes that I going to be ready for Monte-Carlo... If I am ready for that, I think I am very excited about playing back on clay again.”

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The 30 year old has won the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters a record nine times. He returns as the defending champion after beating Frenchman Gael Monfils during last year's final.

Most Titles At A Single Tournament (Open Era)

Player

Titles
Tournament
Rafael Nadal
9
Monte-Carlo
Rafael Nadal
9
Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal
9 Barcelona
Roger Federer
8
Halle
Guillermo Vilas
8
Buenos Aires

Should Nadal claim the top spot in the Race, it's likely he will have captured at least one title from either Monte-Carlo, Barcelona or Roland Garros – the three events he has won a record nine times each. The Spaniard is the only player in the Open Era to have won a tournament nine times. If he were to win the trio of tournaments for a record 10th time, he'd stamp his legacy on the game – and on the clay – once more.

“I am very happy about the first part of the season on hard courts before the clay arrives. I won a lot of matches. I have a lot of points. I am in a privileged position of the Race,” Nadal said. “That's great news for me and gives me calm to play the next couple of tournaments.” 

Statistical research provided by Greg Sharko