'Nadal is a few notches above others on clay'
Fernando Verdasco's confidence on clay is sky high as long as he does not have to play Rafael Nadal, the Barcelona Open champion said on Sunday.
Just a week after being hammered by his Spanish compatriot 6-0, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters final, Verdasco beat Robin Soderling to claim the Barcelona title.
Nadal will be the overwhelming favourite to win the upcoming Masters events in Rome and Madrid and the French Open, where his hopes of a fifth straight crown were ended by Soderling last year.
"Nadal is a tough proposition on clay and he's one or maybe even two levels above everyone else," 26-year-old Madrid native Verdasco, the World No 9, said.
"But I really feel like I can beat anyone else right now and I think I have a good chance of making more finals on clay," he said, including World No 1 Roger Federer and No 2 Novak Djokovic on his list of potential scalps.
Image: Fernando Verdasco
'I have made a lot of progress mentally over the past year'
Nadal, who has won in Barcelona the past five years, withdrew from this year's event to rest and has beaten Verdasco in all 10 of their matches.
Verdasco would not play his Davis Cup team-mate in Rome this week unless both reached the final but could potentially meet Djokovic in the quarters and World No 5 Andy Murray in the last four.
Verdasco has advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros the past three years and said he was not going to push himself too hard in Rome or Madrid.
"The important thing is to get to Roland Garros in good shape," he said."I feel like I have made a lot of progress mentally over the past year and I can cope better on the days when maybe not everything is going quite right."
Image: Fernando Verdasco with the Barcelona Open Trophy