Rafael Nadal says he's put his defeat in Monte Carlo behind him as he begins play in Barcelona this week, and seemed to prove despite a slow start, defeating Illya Ivashka, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in his opening round.
The 11-time Monte Carlo champion fell in three sets to Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals, but wants to concentrate on getting better. He was playing his first event since the Australian Open, and unhappy with his serving against Rublev.
"I have not played much," he told press before the tournament. "Coming back to competition is always tough. Monte Carlo was an important challenge, where I experienced a lot of positives during the tournament and practice sessions.
"Of course, there are things to improve.
"I was not competing at the level I needed... against Rublev. There were things that were not good."
He has also won 11 times in Barcelona. Nadal plans to play Madrid and Rome before aiming to win a record 14th French Open.
"An important month is coming up for me that finishes with Roland Garros," he said. "Each match and each week is important now and I will try not to allow the negative stuff to affect me and am aiming to be positive every day.
"Obviously, it's easier to win Roland Garros with the confidence of winning events before, as I have done for much of my career. But the key is put myself into a position to be competitive in every single event."
The Spaniard is the top seed at Barcelona, which, like Madrid, was cancelled in 2020. Event officials said 1,000 spectators will be allowed at this week's event.
"I'm always excited to play in Spain, especially since I couldn't the previous year," Nadal said. "Also there is going to be the public, which is important."
Nadal is No.3 in the rankings.