Rafael Nadal began his clay-court season in his trademark style, decimating Federico Delbonis 6-1, 6-2. The straightforward victory sent the Spaniard into the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters. The 20-time Grand Slam champion was at his usual best on his favourite surface. Be it serve, forehand, backhand, Nadal was at a different level compared to his opponent.
After the match, the 34-year-old spoke about how good he is feeling physically. “I feel good, yeah. I think I had great practice sessions for the last three, four weeks,” Nadal said. “I feel in good shape, honestly. You can win, you can lose, you can play better or worse. In terms of physically and mentally, I’m enjoying being on the Tour.”
The Spaniard was also happy with the start he enjoyed in the tournament. “It was solid match, I think. Of course, a very positive result. He’s a good player on clay. [It was a] positive start for me,” Nadal said. “I think I just really played a solid match. Nothing unbelievable, but nothing wrong. Just a solid match, a positive start. I think I did what I had to do today.”
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It is not long ago Nadal lifted his record-extending 12th Roland Garros trophy. The French Open was moved to October last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just months later, he will soon be heading into the tournament as a favourite.
Speaking about his clay season last year, he said, “Honestly, I just played two tournaments on clay [last year]. That’s the truth. I never felt last year that I played a full clay-court season. I just played Rome and Roland Garros.”
“For the same time that you told me you should feel strange because we have a shorter gap, at the same time inside myself I never had a real clay-court season last year. I am just trying to adapt myself and trying to make the decisions that I feel more comfortable always.”
Nadal looked impressive against Delbonis, losing only three games throughout the match. The 11-time Monte-Carlo champion will hope for a similar outing in the next round against Grigor Dimitrov, who has beaten Jan-Lennard Struff and Jeremy Chardy to reach the third round.
“Tomorrow I have a very tough opponent in front [of me], so I need to be at my 100 per cent every single moment,” Nadal said.
“We had some great matches. In Melbourne, of course [it was] best of five. The semi-final [was] an emotional one. We played another great match in Beijing, another one in Shanghai with Grigor,” he added. “I hope to be ready for it. I am just excited to play a tough match very early in the tournament.”