Rafael Nadal was preparing on Sunday to face his toughest annual challenge on clay – the 800-metre altitude of Madrid.

The top seed at the Masters 1000 makes no secret that the increased speed of play in the capital is not his favourite set of conditions

But as he bids for a sixth home trophy here, the familiar situation is not a major worry.

“This tournament has the most difficult event for me, everybody knows,” he said.

“But it is one of the most emotional events for me, playing at home. And we will have the chance to play with crowds again (1,500 per day).

“That  means a lot to me, I’m super happy to be back. In terms of tennis the situation is a little bit tougher.

“I have less control (of the high bouncing) ball. But I’ve had some success here, some good tournaments. 

“I hope to be ready to play well, that’s the main thing.”

Nadal takes the top seeding in the absence of No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is skipping the event to combat what appears to be tennis burnout. The Serb entertained himself at the weekend by climbing a holy mountain at home. 

Nadal is in the midst of his preferred part of the ATP season, though Madrid is only his fourth event this COVID-impacted campaign of 2021.

“I’m always excited playing this part of the season, I love the tournaments. 

“We play tournaments that are part of the history of our sport. I always enjoy playing in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, here, Rome, and then of course Roland Garros.

“I’m very familiar with all these places. I enjoy it.”

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