Rafael Nadal begins his Madrid Open campaign against Fabio Fognini on Wednesday (10 May) after recovering from a ear infection that delayed his start.

The Spaniard will be the favourite going into the tournament following back-to-back wins in Monte Carlo and Barcelona in the last two weeks. Nadal has made five finals in the seven tournaments he has played since the start of the year, but had to wait until the start of the clay court season to win his first title.

The 30-year-old made the finals at the Australian Open, the Miami Masters and the Telcel Open in Acapulco prior to his win, but had to settle for the runners-up spot in each of those events after losing the former two to the in-form Roger Federer, and the latter to Sam Querrey.

Federer opted to take an eight-week break and miss the clay court swing of the season and will only return for the French Open, which begins on 28 May. Nadal, who was speaking ahead of his first match admitted that he will not miss his long-time rival in Madrid.

"Of course I won't miss Federer in Madrid," Nadal was quoted as saying by Tennis World USA. "But for fans and tournament, when Roger plays is always great news."

The 14-time men's singles Grand Slam champion also weighed in on Novak Djokovic's decision to part ways with his entire coaching team midway through the season. Nadal refrained from giving his opinion but backed the Serb for doing what "he thinks is better for him".

Djokovic will not have a coach going into the Madrid Open where he faces Nicolas Almagro in the second round on Wednesday, but his agent confirmed that they are in talks with interested candidates. Andre Agassi has emerged as a surprise candidate to take over as the world number two's coach.

"No opinion. What he thinks is better for him, well done. That's it. I think everybody's free to do what feels is better for them in every moment," the former world number one added.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal is looking for his third title of 2017 at the ongoing Madrid Open Reuters