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Tennis: Nadal happy with return to red clay

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Eleven-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal is hoping that a return to the traditional red clay at the Madrid Masters this week will help him continue his successful comeback from injury.

Nadal was one of the fiercest critics of the blue clay which was used at last year's tournament and even threatened at the time to pull out of this year's event if the red clay wasn't returned.

However, after a complete overhaul of the courts for 2013, the World No.5 believes the surfaces at Caja Magica are in better condition than they ever were.

"The courts were not at the level to play professionally last year," he told a press conference on Sunday.

"Fortunately this year they are very good. I can only thank the tournament for the money they have invested to have the highest quality courts here.

"Obviously the courts of the year before were better than the courts of last year, but they were still not great.

"In Madrid, we have the problem of the dry climate, so it's very difficult to have the clay that settles down properly, a clay that's the same as in other places.

"I think this year we have managed to have good clay here. The courts cannot be better."

The Spaniard has won four tournaments and made two finals since returning from a seven-month layoff due to tendinitis in his left knee and although he has been delighted with his form so far this season, he still believes there is room for improvement in his play.

"The results are hard to improve, but the play in the last two tournaments at Monte Carlo and Barcelona is certainly improvable.

"I will continue trying to improve and compete well. I didn't expect to play so well after so long out so it is a great surprise for me."

Madrid will be the first clay court tournament this season when Nadal will be joined by the world's top three men Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in the draw, but he doesn't believe playing in front of a home crowd will necessarily be an advantage.

"My games with Djokovic, Federer and Murray are extremely demanding and of the highest level no matter which court they are played on.

"Obviously I like playing at home, it is a motivation and the more games you win, the more days you get to enjoy this feeling, but I don't feel any extra pressure playing here.

"Whether I am here or in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Indian Wells, Acapulco, it doesn't matter.

"The main goal is always just to do my best."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130505/tennis-nadal-happy-return-red-clay