Rafael Nadal dominated his opening match at the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday, taking just 78 minutes to defeat Aljaz Bedene 6-1, 6-3.

Rafael Nadal Monte Carlo
Rafael Nadal was dominant in his opening match victory over Aljaz Bedene at the Monte Carlo Masters. (Image: Getty)

Nadal has dominated the clay court season for virtually his entire career, and is looking to become the first player to win 11 titles at the same tournament in the Open Era. He already stands as the first player to win a tournament 10 times, setting that record at three different clay court events last year: Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and the French Open.

Returning from Thigh Injury

Nadal is making his first appearance on tour since the Australian Open, where he retired during his quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic. The thigh injury he suffered there held him out of action for the past three months, before he was able to return last weekend to play for Spain against Germany in the Davis Cup.

Initially, Nadal had expected to return at the Acapulco event in late February. But a last minute recurrence of the injury in a final practice session not only forced him out of the event, but also meant he couldnt compete in several more tournaments he had planned to attend.

I did all the things the right way, practicing one week before, to be ready for the tournament, and then it happened, Nadal told reporters. Then the doctors told me: You will not be able to play in Indian Wells, Miami. So that was hard to accept.

But Is It Same without Federer?

Nadals return comes at the perfect time for tennis fans, as Roger Federer is sitting out the clay court season for the second consecutive year. Predictably, Nadal was asked about Federers decision to sit out and rest up for the grass and hard court tournaments later in the season.

When you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar, Nadal told reporters after his match. But for me it is difficult to say Im not going to play, for example, grass, or Im not going to play hard.

Nadal was even more direct when talking to the media before Monte Carlo again, taking a slight dig at Federers scheduling decision.

He says he will love to play against me again in best-of-five sets on clay, Nadal said. I thought he would play Roland Garros. Then a few days later he says he will not play in one event, so theres a little bit of controversy with that.

Federer has won the last four meetings between the two, though all four of those matches have come on hard courts.

At Monte Carlo, Nadal will next face Russian Karen Khachanov in the third round (as one of the top seeds, Nadal received a first round bye). According to William Hill, Nadal is a massive 1/16 favorite to move on past his hard-serving opponent.

Nadal is also favored against the field to take the Monte Carlo Masters title. Nadal is listed at 4/7 odds, with Alexander Zverev (7/1), Novak Djokovic (10/1), and Martin Cilic (10/1) being the best bets to deny him his 11th title.

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