By Iain Rogers
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Fernando Verdasco's confidence on clay is sky high as long as he does not have to play Rafa Nadal, the Barcelona Open champion said Sunday.
Nadal will be overwhelming favorite to win the upcoming Masters events in Rome and Madrid and the French Open, where his hopes of a fifth straight crown were ended by Soderling last year.
"Nadal is a tough proposition on clay and he's one or maybe even two levels above everyone else," 26-year-old Madrid native Verdasco, the world number nine, told a news conference.
"But I really feel like I can beat anyone else right now and I think I have a good chance of making more finals on clay," he said, including world number one Roger Federer and number two Novak Djokovic on his list of potential scalps.
Nadal, who has won in Barcelona the past five years, withdrew from this year's event to rest and has beaten Verdasco in all 10 of their matches.
Verdasco has advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros the past three years and said he was not going to push himself too hard in Rome or Madrid.
"The important thing is to get to Roland Garros in good shape," he said.
"I feel like I have made a lot of progress mentally over the past year and I can cope better on the days when maybe not everything is going quite right."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)