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Rafael Nadal back in action at Monte Carlo Masters
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Last Updated: 19/04/18 4:30pm
Rafael Nadal returns to action chasing a remarkable 11th title at the Monte Carlo Masters, while Novak Djokovic also returns as he seeks to halt his slide.
The ATP Tour's arrival at the Monte Carlo Country Club sees the big guns get their clay court campaigns underway as attention begins to switch towards next month's French Open.
For the second year in succession, Roger Federer has decided to skip the clay-court season but it's still a stellar field in the principality with the world No 1 and 10-time champion taking top billing.
Nadal reclaimed top spot after Federer's early exit in Miami and after making his comeback in Spain's Davis Cup win over Germany he is back and needs to defend his title if he is to keep hold of top spot in the rankings.
A hip injury that saw him miss Indian Wells and Miami but the warm embrace on the Cote d'Azur should help. He has claimed the last two titles after a three-year drought at a tournament he won eight consecutive times between 2005 and 2012.
Former number one Djokovic, winner in 2013 and 2015, is the only other former champion in the field given Nadal's dominance, but the Serb's quest for form and fitness rumbles on.
More changes to the backroom team have taken place since defeats to Taro Daniel at Indian Wells and Benoit Paire in Miami and seeded ninth, he has been placed in the same quarter as Nadal and could have to pass Borna Coric and Dominic Thiem to even set up a meeting with the Spaniard.
Nadal and Djokovic are joined by four more of the world's top 10 including Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov who are among the newer names starting to make their mark in the events.
Other than Roger Federer's victory in Shanghai, five of the last seven Masters events have been first time 1000 level winners with Zverev claiming his first two crowns in Rome and Toronto before Dimitrov triumphed in Cincinnati with Jack Sock the champion in Paris.
Whether we have the same scenario depends on Nadal - a 10-time winner in Monte Carlo who reached his 'La Decima' in the principality with a 6-1 6-3 win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas last year.
2018 Masters Series Finals
|Indian Wells||Juan Martin del Potro||beat||Roger Federer||6-4 6-7 7-6|
|Miami||John Isner||beat||Alexander Zverev||6-7 6-4 6-4|
Kyle Edmund, the British No 1 and sole representative in the field, is back in action after illness kept him out following a dream run to the Australian Open quarter-final.
Second round defeats to lower ranked players at Indian Wells and Miami accompanied his return, but a run to his first ATP final in Marrakech underlines a welcome return to form for the 23-year-old.
The draw could have been kinder for Edmund. He faces the maverick talents of Alexandr Dolgopolov, in the first round before a possible meeting with Pablo Carreno Busta. Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic and Zverev also sit in his half.
Dolgopolov, the former world No 13, now down at No 52 in the rankings, has not played since Melbourne himself but two of his three career singles titles have been on the red dirt and he has won both previous meetings between the players, the most recent in Nottingham a couple of years ago.
"I'm feeling 100 per cent fit now and ready for the change of surface. Clay is one of my favourites so I'm very excited to get back on it and to build on the first part of the year."
One to Watch
With the young guns starting to make their mark on the tour, Thanasi Kokkinakis against Russia's Karen Khachanov looks a cracker to get the tournament underway on Sunday.
Kokkinakis put two years of injury behind him with a memorable win over Federer in Miami and has been handed a wild card here, he faces Khachanov who claimed a first ATP title in Marseille earlier this year.
However Feliciano Lopez meets Benoit Paire in a match that looks a first-round stand-out when the live coverage gets underway on Monday.
On his day Paire can beat anyone with his effortless shotmaking, but the Frenchman tends to have more off days than on and experienced Spaniard Lopez should have too much nous.
Surprise in Store
Diego Schwartzman is in good form and is seeded 10th but a tough first-round match against Guido Pella could be tricky.
His fellow Argentine is a specialist on the red dirt and won their only meeting on the ATP Tour at the French Open and claimed a Challenger title on clay at his countryman's expense.
Coverage of the ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters gets underway from 10am on Sky Sports Arena on Monday.
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