x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Nadal expects Djokovic to surpass him as No 1 next month

In-form Novak Djokovic is not even competing at this week's Monte Carlo Masters yet Rafael Nadal can still sense the Serb lurking in the shadows as the clay court season begins.

In-form Novak Djokovic is not even competing at this week's Monte Carlo Masters yet Rafael Nadal can still sense the Serb lurking in the shadows as the clay court season begins.

For a man who won every clay tournament he entered last year and who at Monte Carlo is bidding to be the first player in the open era to win the same event seven times in a row, the Spanish world No 1 was remarkably subdued yesterday.

Two consecutive final defeats to Djokovic on the hard courts at Indian Wells and Miami have left their mark despite the switch to clay and the Serb's absence from Monte Carlo to rest a knee injury.

"I feel very beatable when I go on court. The last six years on clay, I could never have imagined what I did. It's almost impossible to repeat a season like last year," he said. Djokovic, the world No 2, whose injury is expected to clear up in the next few days, has won 24 consecutive matches in 2011 and nine-time grand slam champion Nadal reckons that form can be transferred onto clay.

"This year Novak has a lot of advantages. He is in a perfect situation to be No 1," Nadal said. "I'm sure he'll be No 1 next month. He started the season playing unbelievably. In my opinion he didn't even play his top level in Indian Wells and Miami."

Kim Clijsters, winner of the last two grand slam events, may miss next month's French Open after injuring her right ankle at her cousin's wedding. A statement posted to her website on Sunday said Clijsters had strained the ligaments in her right ankle and torn an ankle joint capsule and tendon sheath.