A week after winning the Australian Open with a fifth consecutive victory over Roger Federer,number 1 Rafael Nadal hasn’t budged from his belief that he’s still just the world’s second best player.

“I’m getting tired of this question,” said the top seed on Monday as he opened with a loss in doubles alongside fellow Mallorcan Ignacio Coll-Ruidavets at the Rotterdam Open.”When someone has 13 grand slams and 14 Masters titles, there is no discussion about who is the best,” he said respectfully of number 2 Federer, who has not beaten him since the Shanghai Masters Cup in November, 2007.

Nadal has plunged back into the ATP grind just eight days after his sixth major title, pausing for a meal with family and friends after arriving on his home island of Mallorca last Tuesday. A few days off was followed by a private jet flight to Rotterdam and a Sunday night practice session only hours after touching down to get used to what is now a faster indoor court at the Ahoy arena.

“I didn’t have much time off but it’s worse when you have lost,” Nadal said. “After a win it is always difficult to play the next event.” “But it also depends how you won. My semi finals and the final in Melbourne were incredible and very tough.” “In tennis, when you lose you have the opportunity to win the next week but when you win, you don’t have any time to rest.”

The Spaniard opens his singles campaign on Wednesday night against Italian Simone Bolelli hoping to improve upon last year’s second-round defeat. French players, who make up more than a quarter of the 32-man field, began play in the first round with a loss as Russian Dmitry Tursunov beat qualifier veteran Arnaud Clement 6-0, 6-3.

But Julien Benneteau got the nation into the win column shortly afterwards as he put out Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 5-7, 6-2. The massive French entry includes world number eight Gilles Simon (8), 12th-ranked Gael Monfils, Johannesburg champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet. Nadal heads Andy Murray in the field, with the Scot starting his singles campaign on Tuesday night against Croatian Ivan Ljubicic, twice a Rotterdam runner-up, with the second seed hoping for his first victory at the tournament.

Nadal remained unworried by his doubles loss, saying he was mainly on the court for fun and to develop some rhythm in the new conditions. “I also want to help a young player from Mallorca,” said the 22-year-old. “I trained all of December with him, he helped me prepare for Australia. I was trying to help him here.”



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