Nadal happy with form heading into Monte Carlo defense

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By Julien Pretot

The world number three bids for a record sixth consecutive win in Monte Carlo, happy with his performances so far this year after an injury-hit start.

A recurring knee injury forced Nadal to retire from his Australian Open quarter-final against Andy Murray in January but he has since reached the semi-finals of the Indian Wells and Miami Masters tournaments.

"I have played well in all the tournaments this year. I haven't won yet, but I was in contention all the time," Nadal told a news conference after a light training session at the Monte Carlo country club Monday.

"In Indian Wells, I was playing a very good tournament. I played a terrible match in the semi-final, but I played the rest of the matches at a very high level. And in Miami, too, I played well."

The Spaniard, a six-times grand slam winner, said his mindset this year was different to the second half of 2009.

"Last year, the last six months, if I didn't have bad results with semi-finals, one final in Shanghai, quarter-finals in other tournaments... I felt I was not ready to win important tournaments," Nadal said of his injury-blighted season.

"But from the start of the year, I have felt ready."

Back on clay, Nadal senses a first tournament victory since his last in Rome in May 2009.

"I think it's always going to be a little bit more easier on clay for me," he said.

Nadal will start his Monte Carlo Masters campaign with a second-round match against Argentine Eduardo Schwank or Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Justin Palmer)