Rafael Nadal two sets away from breaking another record

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Strolling through: Rafael Nadal.

Rafael Nadal is two sets away from breaking John McEnroe’s record of consecutive sets won on a single surface after the world No. 1 claimed his 48th set in a row on clay with a 6-3, 6-1 rout of Gael Monfils on Wednesday.

McEnroe’s mark of 49 consecutive sets won on carpet came in 1984 and Nadal can match or break that record when he takes on Diego Schwartzman in the Madrid Open third round on Thursday.

Nadal was nearly flawless against Monfils, dismissing the Frenchman, who returned from a back injury just last week, in 73 minutes.

The defending champion had to save three break points early in the first set but then never looked back, claiming a 20th straight victory on clay in the process.

Nadal seems to be laser-focused this clay season, winning 11th titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona before coming to Madrid. But for those wondering if he has an eye on McEnroe’s record, the Spaniard was clear in his thoughts about that.

“You find a new stat. I’m lost. Each time is a less important stat,” Nadal said in Spanish to a local reporter when quizzed about the prospect of breaking McEnroe’s mark.

“Look, if it was important, I had no idea about that stat. I am not saying that it’s not important, but what is important is I made it to the third round of this tournament. I’ve played a really good match. I beat an opponent who is difficult.

“The feelings are very good. This is what matters and what motivates me and gives me joy: the feeling to be able to play another day in front of the crowd here in Madrid.”

Nadal spent more than two months sidelined with a psoas injury before coming back early April to lead Spain in their Davis Cup quarter-final against Germany. He hasn’t lost a match since his return, sweeping all 13 he has contested so far.

Asked if there was something he feels he has specifically improved since his return from injury, or what he is most proud of during that period, the Mallorcan said: “I can’t improve a lot because I didn’t practice. That’s the real thing, no? I have been injured, and I didn’t have the chance to prepare my game a lot.

“What I am more proud, of course I did a lot of things well since I came back. I play with the right intensity, the right focus all the time. My backhand is working great. The forehand working well, too, as always, more or less. But the backhand is a shot that is working well.

“What I am most pleased with is I am recovered from my injury on the psoas. That makes me feel strong and to go on court with confidence that I can hold tough matches. That’s important for me especially on this surface.”

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