Nadal aims for historic sixth Monte Carlo title

MONTE CARLO: Rafael Nadal starts a quest for tennis history here Monday when he takes aim at a sixth straight Monte Carlo Masters title.

Nadal is seeded second behind Serb Novak Djokovic, the man he beat for the title a year ago at the elite Country Club overlooking the Mediterranean.

There is plenty on the line for Nadal next week, with the Spaniard failing to win an ATP trophy since the Rome Masters nearly a year ago. With various months off for knee problems, Nadal''s confidence would be hugely boosted by a return to form on his favoured clay.

The world number three Spaniard''s record of perfection in the principality is impressive with his lone loss in 32 Monte Carlo matches (he didn''t play in 2004) coming a year earlier when he went out to Argentine Guillermo Coria in the third round after qualifying into the field.

Following his exit in last week''s Miami semi-finals to eventual champion Andy Roddick, Nadal unwound at home on the island of Mallorca, recharging after an indifferent - by his standards - month on American hardcourt.

"At home resting, calm and preparing the Monte Carlo tournament," he wrote on his Facebook page.

"Too bad in Miami since I was playing great. I take the opportunity to thank again the support over there (and at Indian Wells)."

The last player to win Monte Carlo before the Nadal dynasty began was Coria in 2004.

Djokovic takes the top seeding as the Serb also seeks to make up for modest March results in the US.

With leading seeds benefitting from byes, the world number two behind the absent Roger Federer at the modified Masters event which is no longer obligatory for leading players, could face one of two Frenchman in Florent Serra or Stephane Robert in the second round.

Another seed on a mission will be Scot Andy Murray, originally not entered in the field but needing to regain confidence after crashing out in his opening Miami match to Mardy Fish.

The wild card third seed produced his best career clay form here a year ago, falling victim to Nadal in the semi-finals.

Croatian Marin Cilic, winner of two titles already this season, takes the fourth seeding, ahead of French hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Spain''s Fernando Verdasco will test long-running injuries as the Spaniard plays on the sixth seeding, heading Russian Mikhail Youzhny, the seventh seed who lost the February Dubai final to Djokovic.

Evergreen Indian Wells champion Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia takes the eighth seeding after failing to follow up his California title, losing his opening match in Miami.