Rafael Nadal 'in good shape' for return at Monte Carlo Masters after long layoff

Spaniard aiming for his 12th title in Monaco having not played since the Australian Open in February

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Rafael Nadal has said his "body is in good shape" as the world No 3 returns to the court this week for the start of his favoured clay court swing at the Monte Carlo Masters.

Nadal, 34, is undoubtedly the greatest clay court tennis player of all time, so there is plenty of focus on the Spaniard the next two months of the ATP calendar, culminating with the French Open.

The Spaniard is aiming for a 12th Masters title in Monte Carlo ahead of his pursuit of a 14th French Open success and a record 21st Grand Slam.

However, Nadal has not played since his Australian Open quarter-final defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas on February 17. He was hampered by a bad back in Melbourne, and opted to skip a series of tournaments since then to ensure he was fully fit for the gruelling clay court season.

"An important part of the season has arrived for me," he told a press conference on Sunday. "I think I did the right work to be ready. I'm happy the way that I am playing, for the moment my body is in good shape.

"I am confident. I am playing well I think. I'm practising well these couple of days here in Monaco, in Monte-Carlo, before the tournament start. So I feel ready."

He is seeded to meet Novak Djokovic in the final in Monte Carlo which if it materialises is likely to be a dress rehearsal for the French Open final.

Nadal won his 13th Roland Garros title to draw level with Roger Federer's record 20 Grand Slams by beating Djokovic in the coronavirus-delayed Paris final in October, but the Spaniard is only focused on the next tournament.

"I'm just going step by step," said Nadal. "I hope to be ready to stay healthy, that's the main thing. If I am able to stay healthy for the next month and a half, I hope to have my chances to compete at the right level."