novak đoković.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Marianne Bevis, used under CC BY-ND

Novak Djokovic may have to work to keep his confidence in check as the runaway world number one begins his bid next week for a third "home" title at the Monte Carlo Masters.

The 28-year-old Serb who is based in the principality is fresh from his fourth title of the season from five events played, winning Miami a week ago to complete the US hardcourt "Sunshine Double" which also includes the desert venue of Indian Wells.

Now, with his major career goal a first-ever Roland Garros title to copmplete a career grand slam, Djokovic is going into his first battle on the clay in top physical and mental form.

"I've always wanted to be where I am at the moment," said the top seed who is defending the trophy from 2015. "I'm doing something that is worth it. I've put myself in the position to fight for biggest trophies in sport.

"Thankfully I've not lost too many matches in the last couple of years, I'm playing the best tennis of my life. That comes after years of dedication, evolution and growth and understanding myself as a player."

Djokovic credited his team headed by Boris Becker with keeping his motivation and level at a sky-high peak.

"If I don't play consistently, other players will challenge. I just try to keep going, I don't pay attention to the rankings of the points do defend. That time of my career is over.

"It's now about maintaining my level of performance. If I do that I have a good chance to get far."

One-time king of clay Rafael Nadal is a player with something to prove at the start of the pre-Paris clay run-up.

Nadal, who owned eight straight Monaco titles 2005-2012, has not won a trophy of any kind since minor success last August on clay in Hamburg.

The 29-year-old Spaniard has been working to rebuild confidence lost in 2015 and has been making progress - though not all the way to a 2016 trophy just yet.

Nadal goes into his favourite and most productive part of the ATP season with fresh mental strength.

"I have no stress I had last year, my feelings are better, I feel much better," the number five said. "I've trained well in Mallorca and have trained well in Monaco. I hope to be ready for action."

Nadal will begin either against Czech Lukas Rosol or Briton Aljaz Bedene.

"The change to clay is a new beginning for everyone. Let's see how I play the first match," said the Spaniard, whose last major came at 2014 Roland Garros.

"My confidence is high after Indian Wells (last month in California), but I need to continue. With trust is always the same. If you win, you have more. And if you lose, you less. Now I hope to continue with the same dynamics in Monte Carlo and Barcelona."

Third seed Roger Federer will be making his first start since early February knee surgery after the Australian Open.

The four-time Monaco finalist will just have to see how he pulls up after what he characterised as weeks of solid training and rehab.

"I feel more rust than rest," said the 17-time grand slam champion, who plays in the second round against the winner from Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain. "But I am rested, mentally and physically.

"I've been training super hard on clay, I'll be able to decide better about playing any of the Masters 1000 tournaments which come later (Madrid and Rome) - one, two or even none.

"Everything is flexible," he added. "You are automatically entered in Masters 1000 events, there is nothing I can do about that. Everyone thinks I've entered Madrid and Rome.

"It's bad spin when you pull out and people think you've let the tournament down. But I know I can always add a Madrid or a Rome to my calendar. If I win Monte Carlo, that changes everything. If I lose 0-0 in the first match, that changes everything.

"I'll know more in two weeks and I can decide the week before Madrid  if I will go there or not."

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