MONTE CARLO • No matter how smoothly Rafael Nadal gets around the clay courts at the Monte Carlo Masters, he knows all too well how quickly things can deteriorate as the already long shadows lengthen.
Especially when the Spaniard has to continually play through the pain barrier.
After swatting aside Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-1 yesterday to set up a quarter-final clash with Argentinian Guido Pella, Nadal, who had to pull out of his semi-final clash with Swiss Roger Federer at last month's Indian Wells tournament, admitted that he was still nowhere near peak condition.
The 32-year-old said: "I can't pretend to not have pain at all. I never thought about that.
"It's a long time ago that professional players play normally without pain, because that's part of the sport to the highest level and no limitations at all."
But while Nadal is treading a fine line in the hope that his body holds up not only for the Monte Carlo defence, which he is looking to win for a record-extending 12th time, but also for his French Open crown, he is relying on "home comforts" to get him over the line.
Calling the surface perfect, the world No. 2 added: "The court always here is great. Especially when we have this weather is just fantastic, no?
"No wind. Great feelings to play tennis. The ball is bouncing, so it was great conditions to play."
Top seed Novak Djokovic continued his win streak against Americans as he reached the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Taylor Fritz.
The two-time tournament champion has now won nine in a row over Americans since losing at Wimbledon 2016 to Sam Querrey.
In his post-match interview, the Serb's attention quickly turned to his last-eight opponent today, Daniil Medvedev.
The Russian dispatched Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, increasing his leading total of ATP match wins to 20 this season, leading the world No. 1 to acknowledge the 14th-ranked player is "one of the rising stars".
The 15-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic said: "He's had the best 15 months of his career, he's played really well and is close to the top 10.
"Big serve, great backhand, steps in, but he's also improved a lot compared to a few years ago.
"We've played a very long match at the Australian Open this year.
"But it's the first time (we are playing) on clay, we'll see.
"Obviously, he's in good form, I am too, so let the better player win."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA
ATP MONTE CARLO MASTERS
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