Ever since Nadal defied his critics to lift the BNP Paribas Open title in Indian Wells, tennis fans have been waiting with bated breath for the start of clay-court season to see if he can continue his renaissance.
The Spaniard will walk along the halls of the Monte Carlo Country Club aware that he is the overwhelming favourite in the first of three dress rehearsals for the French Open (the Madrid and Rome Masters being the other two), especially with world number one Novak Djokovic struggling slightly due to an ankle injury picked up while serving his country in the Davis Cup.
Roger Federer and David Ferrer have chosen to sit this one out, leaving Djokovic and US Open winner Andy Murray as the main obstacles in Nadal's bid for a ninth Monte Carlo Masters win.
Here we predict how the top players will fare.
Seeds: Novak Djokovic , Juan Martin Del Potro 
Djokovic is battling to recover from injury in time for his second round opener against either Mikhail Youzhny or Daniel Gimeo-Traver, but the outlook looks good for the Serbian, who has made it through several practice sessions with coach Marian Vajda since arriving in France.
Potential third-round opponent Juan Monaco will not stand much of chance against Djokovic once the Australian Open winner gets going, so Djokovic's first true test will come in the quarter-final against Del Potro.
With four clay court titles under his belt, Del Potro knows all about winning on clay and his impressive performance in Indian Wells should give him confidence to challenge the bigger fishes in Monte Carlo.
He won't have it easy though. He's up against the flashy Alexandr Dogolpolov before a likely clash with the young firebomber Milos Raonic in the third round. That said, I'm still backing the Tower of Tandil to come through these early tests and then scalp Djokovic - given the world number one's injury woes.
Seeds: Tomas Berdych , Richard Gasquet 
Fourth seed Berdych has a decent enough record on clay, making it all the way to the Madrid Masters final last year and the French Open semi-finals in 2010. The Monte Carlo draw has also been kind to him, as the likes of Marcel Granollers and Andreas Seppi are unlikely to be good enough to stop the Czech from advancing to quarter-finals.
Gasquet might force Berdych to work for a place in the last four, but the Frenchman will fall to his higher-ranked opponent.
Seeds: Rafael Nadal , Janko Tipsarevic 
The last time Nadal suffered a defeat in Monte Carlo, he was a mere teenager of 16.
That alone should be sufficient to illustrate the task his rivals are faced with if they intend to snatch the crown from him.
Having chosen to sit out the Miami Masters to rest his knees, the 26-year old will go into this tournament refreshed and should see off compatriot Fernando Verdasco easily in his opener. Janko Tipseravic or Gilles Simon await Nadal in the quarter-final after he beats 16th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber - opponents the Manacor-born player should see off easily to set up a semi-final meeting with Murray.
Seeds: Andy Murray , Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 
Going into Monte Carlo hot on the heels of a win in Miami, Murray has spoken openly about wanting to do well on the clay court this year.
The dangerous Stanislas Wawrinka is the Brit's first real challenge after second round opponent Robin Haase, but Murray should pull through for a quarter-final meeting with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
After Tsonga, the world number two will have to put his money where his mouth is when he faces Nadal in the semi-finals. Murray's relatively bare clay court trophy cabinet is a clear sign of the odds stacked against him. Expect him to provide some resistance but ultimately crumble against the Spaniard.
Del Potro vs Berdych
Nadal vs Murray
Del Potro vs Nadal