Players prep for upcoming Madrid tennis tournament

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Players prep for upcoming Madrid tennis tournament

MADRID - Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will put their impressive winning streaks on the line this week at the Mutua Madrid Open, a key indicator of form ahead of the French Open.

World No. 1 Nadal has been untouchable on clay this season, winning a record seventh title in Monte Carlo and backing up his Barcelona success last week by lifting a sixth trophy in seven editions at his home event.

He has not lost on clay since the fourth round of the 2009 French Open against Robin Soderling, a run of 34 straight match wins.

Second-seeded Djokovic came into this week undefeated and headlining at the Serbia Open in his hometown of Belgrade, where he played Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in yesterday’s final, aiming to take his undefeated 2011 record to 28-0.

Though the in-form Djokovic has won his last two meetings against Nadal, in the Masters finals at Indian Wells and in Miami, Nadal leads the Serb 9-0 on clay.

But looking too far ahead is not the Spaniard’s style.

“I’m not worried about Djokovic now,” he said. “I can only play him in the final. My next worry is my first Madrid opponent plus playing well and staying injury-free.”

Third seed Roger Federer will be trying to improve after just one title in Doha at the start the season.

The Swiss player is bidding for a trophy hat-trick in Madrid after titles in 2006 - on an indoor hardcourt - and 2009 with a fighting victory over Nadal.

The Spaniard claimed the trophy back from his Swiss rival in 2010.

Federer’s last outing was a quarterfinal loss to Austrian Jurgen Melzer in Monte Carlo. Federer got back on the practice court at his home to try to polish his game for the remainder of the clay-court run to Grand Slam event Roland Garros (the French Open), which starts on May 22.

The top eight seeds on the men’s side in Madrid have byes into the second round.

Andy Murray will be on court for the first time since injuring his right elbow during the warm up for his tough semifinal in Monte Carlo against Nadal. Murray went on to play the match anyway, losing in the tree sets to the Spaniard.

The world No. 5 then withdrew from Barcelona as a precaution.

Fifth seed Soderling needs to get a workout on clay after winning three titles in his first four events of the year, in January and February.

Soderling went out in the quarterfinals at Estoril, Portugal, to resurgent Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who is coming quickly back to form after missing much of 2010 due to wrist surgery.

In the women’s draw, Caroline Wozniacki will try to bounce back from a loss in the final at Stuttgart last week.

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