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Rafael Nadal is lowering his expectations for the clay court season

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Rafael Nadal isn't expecting a repeat of last year's historic sweep of the clay court season.

Speaking to reporters at the European clay court opener in Monte Carlo, the world No. 1, who was a perfect 22-0 on the surface last year, says he thinks another sweep isn't in the offing for 2011:

"What I did last year, winning Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid and Roland Garros, was historic. I don't think that I can do it this year. It didn't happen in 50 or 60 years. So I guess I can't do the same two times in a row."

You know what that is? Loser talk. Rafa is intentionally setting the bar low so he'll have no trouble leaping over it. It's like when I got a really low GPA my first semester in college in order to set myself up for success later. After that, I had no trouble raising it every successive term. Rafa is making it acceptable for himself to fail. No wonder he only has nine Slams.

Oh, I'm kidding. He's not doing any of that, of course. He's Rafa, one of the most humble athletes of this generation. What do you expect him to say, "I expect to dominate as usual?"

In all seriousness, setting his sights on the sweep is a good and realistic goal. After he accomplished the feat last year, Nadal went on to win Wimbledon and the US Open. Whereas winning every clay event may not have been feasible in year's past with Nadal's overbooked calendar, when he dropped Barcelona from his schedule, the feat was within grasp. It is again this year too. Rafael Nadal knows that better than anyone.

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