Novak Djokovic reflects on Nadal rivalry ahead of Monte Carlo Masters

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Novak Djokovic is relishing a chance to continue his rivalry with Rafael Nadal at the Monte Carlo Masters after both men received byes into the second-round.

The pair have played each other 40 times, with Nadal narrowly edging their tight head-to-head record after taking 22 victories.

The world no.1 is also expected to claim a record ninth title in Monte Carlo given his nickname of the 'King Of Clay'. The 27-year-old is widely regarded as one of the greatest clay court tennis players that the sport has ever seen. 

To illustrate that point, one needn't look any further than his record eight wins at the French Open. Nadal has only ever lost once at the Roland Garros Grand Slam. 

However the Serbian will fancy his chances in Monaco - where he owns property - given some recent success over the Spaniard; last year Djokovic ended his rival's eight-year winning streak at the tournament.

The world no.2 has also had the upper-hand in the last three meetings between the duo. Most recently - last month - he powered past Nadal in straight sets to win the Sony Open on the hard courts of Miami, which also followed final success in London and Beijing tournaments.

Djokovic will be hoping to draw on his experiences last year to claim a second title in Monte Carlo.

"Winning this title last year in the final against Nadal was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I really love playing in this tournament," said the 26-year-old.

"My family comes in big numbers during this week so it makes me feel very comfortable, and at home."

The Djokovic/Nadal rivalry is regarded as one of the fiercest on the ATP tour. In Grand Slam titles; Djokovic has won six compared with Nadal's 13 - who has won all four at least once.

"We're more or less the same generation. We're still 27 and 26 so we still have lots of time in front of us," said Djokovic on the duel between the two.

"It's a huge challenge, there's no question about it ... I do not exclude any other players, but the rivalry I had with him is the biggest one so far."

Nadal's dominance at the French Open means that Djokovic has been unable to complete a clean sweep of the slams.

It isn't for a lack of trying on the Serb's part though. In 2012 Nadal defeated him in the final, and last year it was a five-set semi-final loss which ended his hopes.

"Last year, I put a lot of energy, mental, physical, emotional, into winning that title. I have a different kind of approach this year," said the former world no.1 who hopes to finally win this time around

"Last year it was more in my mind. It was more in my thoughts, constantly ... Of course, I want to put all my effort into winning Roland Garros, but when the time comes."

The Monte Carlo Masters - which offers a prize of € 2,884,675 - is the first of three Masters events before the French Open which begins late next month.

Events on the clay at Madrid and Rome will also provide Djokovic and the other contenders some valuable practice as they look to dislodge Nadal's crown.

17-time Grand Slam winner Federer was given a wildcard into the competition after initially rejecting an invitation while the Swiss' countryman and most recent Australian open winner Stanislas Wawrinka will also be in contention.

British no.1 Andy Murray will play no part after opting to take a short break as he looks to find a new coach.

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Novak Djokovic
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