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Nadal starts all over again in French Open defence

Rafael Nadal will begin constructing a new winning streak on clay when he steps out for his first round tie at the French Open.

india Updated: May 26, 2007 14:02 IST

Rafael Nadal will begin constructing a new winning streak on clay when he steps out for his first round tie at the French Open, but he doubts he will ever match the 81 straight wins that ended in the Hamburg Masters final against Roger Federer.

That loss almost came as a relief to the soon-to-be 21-year-old Spaniard who had strung together the longest-ever winning streak on any surface over two and a half years.

"Eighty-one victories consecutive on clay is a record that is difficult to improve, no?" he said as he finetuned his preparations for this year's tournament at Roland Garros.

"It's difficult someway to improve that record. But, well, I am going to start another one. But I think the chances is like this," he said pinching his thumb and forefinger closely together.

Nadal is the defending champion at Roland Garros and a win in two weeks time would make him the first man since Bjorn Borg (1978-81) to win three in a row in Paris.

It would also for another year ruin Roger Federer's hopes of carrying off the fabled Grand Slam of tennis just as he did last year.

Not that that will in anyway upset Nadal who is all youthful charm and innocence off court but a programmed killer whenever he is in action.

Federer, he says, is the player he gets on best with outside of the Spanish clan that is omnipresent at tournaments on the ATP tour.

He has even apparently joined the Federer court on ATP matters and talks on the future of the sport and beams that the two can discuss more freely because "my English is improving every year."

But he has a warning for the Swiss superstar that the defeat in Hamburg has in no way affected his confidence coming into Paris.

"My preparation has been very good, because I have had a lot of matches of experience, a lot of confidence and with a tournament like this it is important to arrive with the best confidence.

"I'm playing well. In my opinion, I am playing the best tennis of my career this year."

Having concluded in Hamburg an exhausting series of tournaments that saw him win titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, Nadal opted for some quiet time back at home on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

First he did a TV spot with Barcelona's Brazilian midfielder Ronaldinho before heading home to see his closely-knit family.

He also had two rounds of golf, winning one and losing one, but was stymied in his desire to go fishing as the sea was too rough.

Friday's draw at least presented him with some likely plain-sailing in the early rounds of the season's second Grand Slam.

He takes on young Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro in his opener followed by a possible third round encounter against veteran Tim Henman of Britain.

The 2004 French Open champion Gaston Gaudio and a resurgent Lleyton Hewitt are also in his quarter of the draw, but the way seems clear for him through to the latter stages.