Federer's late arrival lights up Monte Carlo

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The Independent Online

A budding young Monegasque hoping for a wild card into next week's Monte Carlo Masters was probably cursing his luck, but the organisers were delighted to announce yesterday that the final spot in the 56-man field had gone to a more familiar figure. Roger Federer had planned to miss the traditional opening to the European clay-court season but will now be heading for the Côte d'Azur, where he has lost to Rafael Nadal in the final for the last three years in succession.

Federer has been playing a limited schedule this year, competing in just four tournaments so far, and had planned only two clay-court appearances, at the Masters events in Rome and Madrid, before next month's French Open, but clearly believes he needs more matches on the surface.

Nadal, who confirmed yesterday that he will be defending his Queen's Club title at the Aegon Championships in June, heads field that also includes Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

The women's game will crown a new world No 1 later this month, as Dinara Safina will overtake Serena Williams when the rankings are updated the week after next.