Rafael Nadal will begin his campaign for an unprecedented seventh straight Monte Carlo Rolex Masters title today with the praise of his great rival Roger Federer ringing in his ears.
Federer, beaten three times in the final by the Spaniard, needed just 50 minutes to hammer Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round yesterday but admits Nadal will pose a much sterner test.
Federer said: "Rafa is clearly the overwhelming favourite for this tournament, even though I haven't seen him play yet. To win the tournament six years in a row, I know I hard it is. I don't think I've ever done it anywhere."
However Federer could hardly have hoped to get his clay-court season off to a better start against the more than competent world number 32, as he produced an almost flawless performance to triumph 6-2 6-1.
Federer added: "It was clearly a good start for me into the clay-court season. I varied it well that he couldn't play his game. I was consistent and consistently dangerous too. There were no secrets out there."
Nadal will open against Finland's Jarkko Nieminen on Wednesday while Andy Murray aims to put his recent travails behind him when he also starts in the second round against veteran Radek Stepanek.
In other second round action yesterday, 32-year-old Ivan Ljubicic once again proved his career is far from over as he took two hours and nine minutes to beat 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.
Fifth seeded wild card Tomas Berdych brushed aside Olivier Rochus 6-2 6-3 while the powerful, fast-rising Canadian Miles Raonic scored another notable scalp with a big-hitting 6-4 7-5 win over Latvia's Ernests Gulbis.
In first round action, four Spaniards - Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Albert Montanes, Feliciano Lopez and Pere Riba - all won. French 16th seed Gilles Simon, Italy's Fabio Fognini and Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina also progressed.