Nadal strips off his strappings in Monte Carlo experiment

Nadal strips off his strappings in Monte Carlo experimentMonte Carlo  - Rafael Nadal has begin his Monte Carlo Masters title defense without the knee strappings which have become as much a part of his on-court uniform as his headband.

The top seed admitted that it had been months - maybe years - since he last played without the physical and now, surely mental aid. But the whole process is merely an experiment which could end at any time.

"You never know, maybe tomorrow I'll put them back," he said after advancing into the third round on the clay of the principality. "We've been thinking of taking them off for a long time.

"I'll see what happens, for right now, it's ok and I'm happy for that."

Nadal had a few stutters as he got through his opening match on Wednesday, but his Thursday date for a quarter-final place against Nicolas Lapentti was looking dicey.

Rain moved into the region as forecast overnight, with third-round play suspended well into the afternoon. Officials were still hopeful of going ahead with some of the eight scheduled matches to keep the event on its timetable.

The top four seeds all remain in the mix as the first weather interruption since 2006 took a toll.

Roger Federer was facing Swiss Davis Cup teammate Stanislas Wawrinka, with number three Novak Djokovic taking on Spain's Alberto Montanes and British number 4 Andy Murray to play Fabio Fognini of Italy.

Nadal was struggling to remember when he last went without the thin bandage strappings wrapped just below his knees prior to each trip onto court.

"I think last year here I played without against (David) Ferrer," he said. "And before I don't know. One year? "

But the jury is still out on the success of the new plan, which comes just a few months after the 22-year-old ditched his trademark "pirate pants."

"I don't know if it will work, I need more matches than just one."(dpa)