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Five things we learned from the Monte Carlo Masters

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Rafael Nadal won his seventh straight Monte Carlo Masters this weekend, defeating David Ferrer 6-4, 7-5 in the final of the ATP 1000 event. We already knew Nadal was the king of clay. Here are five other things we learned during the event:

1. Even when Nadal is struggling, he's seemingly unbeatable. Rafa is far too humble to say he played poorly in Monte Carlo. Doing so would be an insult to Andy Murray and David Ferrer, I think:

I said I didn't play bad.  I played okay, I think.  But I think I can improve a few things for next weeks.  I think this victory gonna give me lot of confidence.  You know, I am sliding less than usual on clay.  Is easier to defend well when you are sliding, especially to the forehand.  I am not doing well the service.  But two more days to practice for Barcelona.  Let's see.

Translation: It's great to know that I can still miss forehands like I'm a 2.5 and still beat guys in the top six.

2. Like bears and fat-tailed lemurs, Andy Murray should hibernate during the winter months. After losing in the Australian Open finals in the past two years, Murray has gone a combined 4-7 and caused even more panic than usual in the calm, measured British press. They wonder whether Murray lost it after losing in Melbourne and wonder if he can snap out of the funk. He always does, particularly on clay, where his big-hitting game theoretically shouldn't translate. His match against Nadal was a classic, one we'll be talking about eight months from now in our 2011 recaps. Andy Murray is fine, gents.

3. David Ferrer is en fuego. He beat Nadal in Melbourne, stretched Murray to four sets in the semifinals of the Slam, won (against admittedly lesser competition) in Auckland and Acapulco, got to the quarters of Miami and gave Nadal a match in the finals of Monte Carlo. He's 21-5 on the year, though his ranking has stayed anchored at No. 6. If anybody not named Novak is going to beat Rafa on clay this season, it could be Ferrer.

4. USA? Not on clay. There were no Americans in the field at the 1000 event in Monte Carlo. It's not a mandatory event, but still ... nobody? It doesn't get much better this week in Barcelona, as Robert Kendrick is the only player with USA by his name on the draw sheet. This is why the USTA's prestigious Orange Bowl tournament recently announced it was going back to clay. Americans can't be good on something they never play upon.

5. Photographers love Ivan Ljubicic blowing through his racquet. There are no less than four pictures of pictures of the Croatian in various states of racquet-blowing available on the wires.

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It worked for Mr. Ljubicic. He made it to the quarters of the tournament before running into the Nadal buzzsaw.

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