- Seven-times Monte Carlo Masters champ Rafael Nadal will be the man to beat
- World No.1 Djokovic admits he will have a challenge on hands, but is confident about form
- Serbian Djokovic grew up playing on clay and feels good about chances against Nadal
- If successful, Djokovic first player to win back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 titles in Miami and Monte Carlo
With seven consecutive titles under his belt, there's no denying Rafael Nadal's title as the 'King of Monte Carlo.'
The world number No. 2 has won the Monte Carlo Masters every year since 2005. But he better watch out because World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is gearing up to topple him.
The Serb admitted he'll have a battle on his hands beating the reigning champ, but said he felt confident on the clay following his win at the Miami Masters last month.
"We've played already here finals in 2009, good match, but Nadal is the ultimate challenge on clay. He's the king of clay. He's the best tennis player ever to play on this surface and one of the best tennis players ever, so that says enough." Djokovic said on Monday.
But he added that he "feels good" about competing on clay for the first time since his defeat to Roger Federer in the semifinals at the Paris Open last year.
"It is the surface I grew up on. In Serbia, up to last couple of years, we only had red clay. I do feel comfortable, I like to slide, and clay allows me to slide. I had a great season on clay last year so I hope to continue this year," he said.
Djokovic has reason to be confident. Nadal's triumph last year in Monte Carlo came in his absence (due to a knee injury) and in the next two clay-court tournaments -- in Madrid and then Rome -- the Spaniard suffered straight-sets losses to the Serb in the final.
"Obviously, knowing in 2011 I won Rome and Madrid and winning against Rafa in finals back-to-back gives me a lot of confidence for coming into the clay-court season now," he said.
However, in their long on-court rivalry, Nadal still leads 16-14 in career clashes with Djokovic, despite losing the last seven of their meetings.
Djokovic is now aiming to become the first player to win back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 titles in Miami and Monte Carlo, saying he is well prepared for the transition from hard to clay courts.
"I know how to recover well, to be ready, and I've been working hard in my off season and [the week] that I had off after Miami to prepare for clay because clay requires physically much more from a tennis player than other surfaces," he said.
"It's a slower surface, your endurance needs to be on a high level. You need to by physically strong to expect long matches and long rallies."
The world's top-ranked tennis stars revealed last week they would also be going head-to-head in a special match for charity at Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium on July 14.
World No. 1 Djokovic and his predecessor Nadal hope to draw 80,000 fans -- which would smash the previous record set by Belgian Kim Clijsters and fellow former world No. 1 American Serena Williams in Brussels.
The Spanish football club's pitch will be transformed into a tennis court, with the event taking place in the gap between Wimbledon and the London Olympics.