The Rome Masters gets under way Monday, with Rafael Nadal looking to erase memories of last year's second-round defeat. This year, the draw has set up an French duel between Joe-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet on Tuesday.
AFP - Rafael Nadal had no time for extended celebrations after winning a fifth straight Barcelona Open title 6-2, 7-5 over David Ferrer on Sunday with the Rome Masters next on his all-conquering agenda.
Last year, at the Foro Italico, the 22-year-old world number one, suffering from knee problems, lost his opening match there to compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero.
That loss snapped a three-title run in the Eternal City.
This year, Nadal goes to Rome in equally devastating touch after completing five on the trot trophy performances at both Monte Carlo and Barcelona in the space of 14 charmed April days.
"I could never have imagined that I could win here for the fifth time," said the champion. "For me, this is much more than a dream."
Nadal shows no signs of flagging as he gets set for his third straight week of claycourt battle, opening in Rome in midweek against local hope Andreas Seppi or American Sam Querrey.
In the back of his mind is his extraordinary, upcoming bid for a fifth consecutive title at Roland Garros where he has never lost.
Nadal, with 35 career titles from 44 finals, has lost only four matches on clay in the past four years, the last one coming in Rome 12 months ago.
But he's out to change that scenario as he rides a wave of confidence.
"I'll hope to take this good form to Rome," he said. "If I can play at my best level then I'll have a good chance."
Nadal becomes the seventh consecutive home champion at the Real club after the fourth all-Spanish final of the past five editions.
"I'm very happy with my game today, it was surely my best performance so far this year on clay."
Ferrer paid tribute to his compatriot.
"Rafa is playing even more aggressively this year. He has a great rhythm right from the start and it’s very difficult to beat him," he said of a player who, since 2005, has compiled a 142-4 record on clay courts.
Date created : 2009-04-27