MADRID, May 9 – Rafael Nadal resumes his rush to the record books this weekend as Madrid Masters opens on a new date at a new venue on a new surface.The event also combines the capital’s WTA tournament into a spring clay tennis spectacular at the spanking new Caja Magica (Magic Box) venue to the south of the city. In case of rain, the multi-million euro complex boasts three courts with moveable roofs.
But time or place will likely mean little to Nadal, who is carrying a 30-match win streak on clay into the last major tuneup before the May 24 start at Roland Garros.
Nadal has been an unstopable force on the dirt, winning five straight titles each at Monte Carlo and Barcelona while making it four from five years last weekend in Rome with a straight-set thrashing of holder Novak Djokovic.
Despite the 900-metre Madrid altitide which makes the ball fly – and creates conditions unlike those to be experienced in Paris – number one Nadal remains undeterred from his usual mission of total ATP domination.
"Every tournament is completely different," said the Spaniard, who put the racket down and picked up his golf clubs for a few relaxing days at home in Mallorca.
"Right now I’m focused on Madrid."
"Playing in Spain is always special motivation. The only thing is playing in altitude."
The week will be a stern test for Roger Federer as the formerly impeccable Swiss struggles to hang onto his number two ranking.
In recent week Federer has failed to capitalise on matchleads, his most recent failure a Rome semi-final collapse against Djokovic.
But with Briton Andy Murray now bearing down on his ranking, Federer will have to show improvement this week after losing the last three Roland Garros finals to Nadal.
The women’s draw will be without Roland Garros holder Ana Ivanovic, ordered by doctors to rest an inflamed right knee for a week.
Number one Dinara Safina heads the field ahead of Serena Williams, who will be trying to forget a Rome opening exit this week. Safina, as well as the rest of the semi-finalists in Rome which ends Saturday, have been given first-round byes.
Williams will start with Italian Francesca Schiavone.
Russian third seed Elena Dementieva returns as third seed after passing up Rome, trailed by Serb Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams, the number five.