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Nadal returns to favourite hunting ground on red soil

London :Serbian former world number one Novak Djokovic will be in action at his home club, working under old coach Marian Vajda, — desperately searching for some spark after tumbling down to 13th in the rankings.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal looks on during an interview session on Day 1 of ATP Masters Series Monte Carlo Rolex Master at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.

Rafael Nadal’s build-up to what he hopes will be another French Open triumph begins in earnest this week when the Spaniard returns to one of his favourite old haunts, Monte Carlo.

The Mallorcan world number one has been off the Tour since injuring himself at the Australian Open but looks to have recovered just in time for the European claycourt swing he has dominated throughout his career.

No where more so than Monte Carlo where last year he became the first player to win the same ATP tournament 10 times.

Twelve months ago he went on to win a 10th Barcelona title and then completed La Decima at Roland Garros.

The 31-year-old world number one begins his clay court title-hunting season with few matches in the legs this year though, having taken an extended rest after suffering a hip injury in Melbourne against Croatia’s Marin Cilic who will be seeded two at the Monte Carlo Country Club overlooking the ocean.

Any doubts about Nadal’s physical condition were cast aside, however, when he won both his matches for Spain in last weekend’s Davis Cup quarter-final against Germany.

His display against world number four Alexander Zverev was particularly impressive, winning 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

“I feel that I’m playing well. I had some good days of practice here, playing some good sets,” Nadal said.

“That helps me. I love this event. I always feel comfortable here. I’m enjoying being here in Monte Carlo in an event that always brings me to the best feelings possible.

“It’s hopefully going to be my first event of the year that I can finish. And I’m excited about that.”

Nadal will be chiefly concerned with arriving in Paris in tip-top shape but also in the back of his mind is the fact that his number one ranking is hanging by a thread.

Unless Nadal wins an 11th Monte Carlo title Roger Federer, who is skipping the claycourt season as he did last year, will return to the top spot without hitting a ball.