Monaco: Rafael Nadal will talk about almost anything except his knee injury as he bids to win the Monte Carlo Masters for the ninth straight time.
The Spaniard has made an impressive return to the circuit after seven months out with a left knee injury, reaching the final of the four tournaments he's played in - winning three - and racing to a career best 17-1 start to the season.
"A lot of talk about the knee for the last year, and I think it's not good to talk about that anymore. I'm here and competing and so I prefer to focus on the tennis," the 26-year-old Nadal said Monday. "Talking (about) the knee every day doesn't help ... (whether) the knee is 50, 90, 80, 100 percent doesn't change the situation that I am going to be in."
As well as looking to continue his Monte Carlo winning streak, which stands at 42 matches, Nadal is aiming to extend his Masters record to 23 titles.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his second-round match on Wednesday, Nadal was keen to turn his attention away from a long spell on the sidelines which caused him to miss the London Olympics and two Grand Slam tournaments, before returning to competition in February.
After losing to Horacio Zeballos on clay in the final at Vina del Mar, Chile, Nadal won clay-court titles at Sao Paulo, Brazil and Acapulco, Mexico, before beating Juan Martin del Potro on hardcourt in the Indian Wells final to win his 22nd Masters title.
"To have that success was just a dream for me," he said. "It was a big surprise, especially for me (given) my situation. A lot of good feelings and fantastic emotions in Latin America and then in Indian Wells. But that's past. We're here in Monte Carlo."
The Indian Wells victory was one of Nadal's most emotional. He collapsed on his back when he won, got up, hugged Del Potro, and then dashed over to his team in the stands for hugs. Then he fell to his knees on the court to soak up the sheer emotion as he felt the adrenalin rush of winning a big title again.
Such emotion was hard to find during his time away, so he invested himself in the triumph of others - cheering on Andy Murray to beat Roger Federer to win the Olympic gold medal.
"I was emotional when Andy won the Olympics - he deserved something like this - and then he won the first US Open. A long time ago I say he will win a Grand Slam and finally he did so I'm very happy," Nadal said. "When somebody deserves something, I'm emotional. It's like when I lost in 2009 in Roland Garros. It sounds strange, but I lost the No. 1 to Roger in that tournament but I really wanted Roger to win the tournament."
However, only former French Open runner-up Guillermo Coria knows what it's like to beat Nadal at Monte Carlo, and that was 10 years ago.
Nadal, who missed the 2004 tournament because of injury, has a phenomenal 44-1 record which he is expected to extend against either 2010 finalist Fernando Verdasco of Spain or Australian Marinko Matosevic in the second round on Wednesday.
The early signs of clay-court supremacy were already there, even as a 16-year-old.
Nadal beat 2002 French Open champion Alberto Costa under floodlights late in the night before pushing Coria - who won at Monte Carlo and reached the Roland Garros final a year later - to a first-set tiebreaker.
"It was the first big tournament I played ... just to be here in 2003 was a big dream," he said. "I lost against Coria - he played the final here that year. I went past the qualifier, I won against (Karol) Kucera, I won against Albert Costa. To play a competitive match against one of the best players of the moment - Coria - was just amazing for me."
Seeded third, Nadal could face the second-seeded Murray in the semifinals.