Nadal welcomes confidence-building court time
Wednesday's Monte Carlo Masters win against Aljaz Bedene was a step in the right direction for Rafael Nadal, who is beginning to regain his confidence after time away from the court with a hip injury.
Spaniard Nadal's only action since January's Australian Open came in this month's Davis Cup match against Germany, during which he beat Alexander Zverev and Philipp Kohlschreiber.
The world number one showed few signs of rust in beating Bedene 6-1 6-3 but must win the tournament for the 11th time in his career this week to prevent Roger Federer from toppling him at the rankings summit.
That issue is far from Nadal's mind, however, as he looks to build belief on his favoured clay surface.
"It was a positive start," said Nadal. "That's all. It's important for me to win matches, of course.
"I need days on court. Since Shanghai last year, I have spent not enough time on court competing.
"Every match that I have the chance to win is great news, because it [helps my] confidence and is a chance to play another day. That's what I need."
Russia's Karen Khachanov awaits Nadal in the next round, ahead of a potential quarter-final clash with Novak Djokovic.
"He is a tough opponent, of course," added Nadal. "No doubt about that. He's a player that serves big and has big shots from the baseline.
"I need to play aggressive. I can't let him play in comfortable positions because then it will be impossible.
"I know it's going to be an important test for me."