It’s time for some high-quality tennis on the red dirt. After the tennis season got underway with the US Open, the action shifts to French Open, which was postponed to become the last Grand Slam event of the pandemic-hit season.
While the US Open lacked the big rivalry in the absence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, French Open has a bit more power-packed men’s singles field. And in the lead up to the clay-court major favourites Nadal and Novak Djokovic have had an interesting exchange.
Rafael Nadal who is eyeing a record-extending 13th Grand Slam title heads into the tournament, starting September 27, with not much match practice. Nadal skipped the US Open and resmed his season at Italian Open in Rome last week.
Given Nadal’s dominance on clay courts over the last 3 seasons, his exit in the quarter-finals of Italian Open came as a surprise despite his rustiness after the long break due to the pandemic. In the quarter-finals, Nadal, the 2nd seed, was ousted by eventual finalist Diego Schwartzman.
Rafael Nadal acknowledges the fact that he needs to be at his best to win his 13th Roland Garros title and extend his unbeaten run at the Grand Slam to 4 years. With French Open getting postponed from May, the conditions, he believes, aren’t going to be favourable. While Nadal enjoys fast-paced clay-courts during the summer in Paris, the weather, at this time of the year, is colder. The organisers are also using a different ball to suit the conditions.
100 percent true: Nadal on Djokovic’s comment
Nadal also agrees with Djokovic’s comments that he is not unbeatable on clay. However, the Spanish great said he has had a lot of success on the red dirt in Paris which will hold him in good stead to tackle the not-so-familiar conditions.
“Yeah, 100 percent true. I always have been beatable on clay. He beat me a lot of times. But at the same time it is true that I had a lot of success on this surface,” Nadal said while responding to Djookovic who had made the comment after winning last week’s Italian Open.
“Conditions here probably are the most difficult for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different factors. Ball completely different. Ball is super slow, heavy. It’s very cold. Slow conditions.
“Of course, the preparations 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 me a chance.”
What was Djokovic’s comment?
Djokovic had said: “It’s Nadal. Even though he lost this week, I still think a lot of people will agree, he’s the No. 1 favourite and the record that he has there, the history of his results, you just can’t put anybody in front of him.
“Definitely Diego showed that Nadal is beatable on clay. The conditions that they played on, obviously heavy clay, not much bounce, humid, night session, we are going to have that as well in Paris.”
Nadal has been handed a tough draw at French Open as the 2nd seed might have to face Alexander Zverev in the quarter-final and US Open champion Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals.