Tennis

Nadal concedes 'monopoly' at top is over

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MADRID, Spain

Despite injury spoiling his dream of a non-calendar year Grand Slam at January's Australian Open, Rafael Nadal has seen enough of his closest rivals since to concede the era of dominance he shared with Roger Federer is over, The Australian reported Tuesday.

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The Spaniard, who returns to the court for Spain in a Davis Cup tie against Belgium this weekend, was forced to watch on because of a strained adductor as Novak Djokovic blitzed Federer and then Andy Murray to claim the crown in Melbourne.

Only Djokovic, who also won the 2008 Australian Open, and Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, have succeeded in denying the champion pair in 24 majors dating back to 2005.

During Nadal's month-long absence from the tour, his biggest dangers aside from Federer have continued to impress, with Djokovic leading the charge.

The Serb maintained his unbeaten start to this season by claiming a title in Dubai on the weekend over Federer, while del Potro posted his most significant win of his comeback from a serious wrist injury when successful Sunday in a tournament at Delray Beach, Fla.

Canada's Milos Raonic, who shot to prominence during the Australian Open with his massive serve, is another to impress Nadal by maintaining his form to win a tournament in San Jose, Calif., before pushing Andy Roddick to the brink in the final of an event in Memphis, Tenn.

"In 2005, 2006 and 2007, perhaps you could say there was a bit of a monopoly, but it was down to Federer. I was also there, but a little less," Nadal told Spanish reporters.

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"For sure, I think this monopoly ended some time ago. There are many players ready to challenge now.

"I've never seen so many new talents. Of course, there is Raonic, the Canadian, who has started the year very well, and there is [Grigor] Dimitrov. They are the two youngsters who have improved the most.

"I can't say that Murray and Djokovic are youngsters who have broken through on the tour because they've been No. 3 and No. 4 for three years now. And, at the end of the day, I'm only a year older than them."

Nadal, 24, will resume at Indian Wells in California next week before heading to Miami.

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