After having to cut his hard-court campaign short due to a knee injury, some questioned whether he would recover 100% in time for Monte Carlo. But if the video his academy tweeted out on Thursday is anything to go by, Rafael Nadal is ready to rock the first Masters 1000 event of the clay-court season.
Four weeks ago, Nadal was forced to withdraw prior to his semifinal match against Roger Federer at Indian Wells due to the knee injury. In the press room he remained optimistic about Monte Carlo.
“Now the process starts to decide what direction we have to take to recover well and to recover as soon as possible,” he said. “Being honest, I don’t have doubts today that I will be ready for Monte Carlo. But at the same time, I need to check with my people what the best way to proceed is. It’s a situation we weren’t expecting at this point, so now we need to adjust all the calendar a little bit.”
On Thursday, the Rafa Nadal Academy tweeted a video of the 17-time Grand Slam champion’s last practice on the academy’s courts before he headed out to the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters:
Nadal has an incredible record in Monte Carlo. He’s won the Masters 1000 event 11 times, which includes eight straight years from 2005 to 2012 and the last three years from 2016 to 2018. It’s one of three tournaments—all on clay—that he’s won 11 times, alongside Barcelona and Roland Garros.
No other man in the Open Era has even won the same ATP event 10 times.
“Since the first time I came to Monte Carlo, it’s been a love story with this event,” he said during his run to the title at the Monte Carlo Country Club last year. “It’s one of the most beautiful tennis clubs in the world, without a doubt, and every time I have the chance to be here, it’s a special feeling.”
That special feeling seems to have extended through the entire clay court season for Nadal over his long, illustrious career—the Spaniard has captured 57 of his 80 career ATP titles on the slow surface, as well as 11 of his 17 career Grand Slam titles and 24 of his 33 career Masters 1000 crowns.
He has a 415-36 career record on clay and his last two clay court campaigns have been particularly devastating: since the start of 2017 he’s 50-2 on the surface, the two losses both coming to Dominic Thiem, in the quarterfinals of Rome in 2017 and then in the quarterfinals of Madrid in 2018.
Between those two losses to Thiem he actually won 50 sets in a row on clay, the longest single-surface set streak in ATP history, beating John McEnroe’s 49-set winning streak on carpet in 1984.
After a first round bye, Nadal will play either Roberto Bautista Agut or John Millman in the second round of the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters next week. He’s 2-0 against Bautista Agut, including a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 demolition at Roland Garros two years ago, and he’s 1-0 in his career against Millman.