Does Rafael Nadal consider himself the favourite at this year’s Roland Garros? As a 12-time tournament champion, he has dominated the event like no other player in all Grand Slam history. On the other side of the ledger, he has played just one tournament since February and suffered a surprise quarter-final loss to Diego Schwartzman last week in Rome.
His great rival, Novak Djokovic, comes in with a 31-1 record on the season, and the confidence of having won a record-breaking 36th ATP Masters 1000 title in Rome. To win the trophy, Nadal may need to beat US Open champion Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals and Djokovic in the final. And the World No. 2 feels that conditions are not in his favour.
So maybe, just maybe, there is hope for others in the field.
“I always have been beatable on clay. [Novak] beat me a lot of times,” said Nadal. “But at the same time [it] is true that I had a lot of success on this surface. [The] situation is special. Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different [reasons]. The ball completely different. The ball is super slow, heavy. It's very cold. Slow conditions.
“Of course, the preparation have been less than usual. But you know what, I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible, to practise with the right attitude, to give [myself] a chance. That's the main goal for me. Be competitive on Monday, and let's try. Just day-by-day. I know this place very well. It is about being patient, being positive, just trying to find the positive vibes every single day.”
Despite the challenging conditions for the Spaniard at this year’s event, Nadal is excited to be back at the most successful tournament of his career. The Spaniard can create history in Paris this year. If Nadal lifts the trophy by winning seven matches in Paris, he will equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam crowns and hit 100 victories at the clay-court Grand Slam championship. Nadal currently holds a tournament record 93 wins from 95 matches.
“We are just about to start a very important event, the most important event in my tennis career historically,” said Nadal. “I am just happy to be back here in this place… The situation is a little bit more difficult than usual without a doubt. But that's it. I going to keep trying my best. I know [it is] going to be a big