Djokovic makes Nadal favourite in Monte Carlo as Wawrinka wins opener

Roger Federer on clay

Roger Federer on clay

After winning the Australian Open, Djokovic had a blip few saw coming when he failed to reach the quarterfinals at both Indian Wells and the Miami Open. Federer is due for a return to the dirt after two seasons completely off the surface in three weeks at Madrid, his lone scheduled tune-up prior to the French Open, which he last played in 2015.

This year, the 20-time Grand Slam champion, Roger Federer has dropped two matches on the ATP tour this year and he has captured two out of three championship matches that he played.

"It was fantastic", Nadal said as he prepared for his Wednesday start at the Monte Carlo Masters, his first event in a month since withdrawing with knee issues at Indian Wells before a semi-final against Roger Federer. "Winning a clay tournament is a big goal for me this year", said the two-time champion in Barcelona, Nadal's home event". But I think, personally, people understood why he decided as well to skip the clay-court season a year ago and I also understand why he wants to play.

"So it's always expected in a way from my side when I see him play, compete on any level on any surface that he's going to be at his best, that he's always going to be one of the candidates or favourites to win any tournament". "Personally I think most of the people understood why he chose to skip the clay court season past year, and I also understand why he wants to play".

"I've been in comeback situations many times; I've always done well". Dominic Thiem, of course.

Nadal could not help but compare his own years of fitness problems to those of Woods, who has faced multiple back surgeries and other roadblocks when it looked like his career might be close to ending.

"He's a good example of passion for sport... discipline, in terms of hard work... and love for the game". "'I mean, he's been playing some great tennis lately". Djokovic's opponent is Taro Daniel of Japan or Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, who has lost eight of 10 matches against Djokovic but beat him at Indian Wells.

"You know, I have seen him play here [at the Monte Carlo Masters, and it] seems like he's fine".

But he can rule out adding the Monte Carlo Masters doubles trophy to his cabinet. "But I like it, I embrace it, and this is definitely one of if not my favourite tournament to play and I can't wait to step on the court".