The undisputed king of clay, Rafael Nadal is one name clear of matching Roger Federer's all-time Grand Slam report, however 15 years on from the Spaniard's first French Open triumph he seems extra susceptible than ever at his cherished Roland Garros.
Nadal owns an astounding 93-2 report in Paris courting again to his debut in 2005, when, nonetheless an adolescent, he was the primary participant to win the French Open on his first try since Mats Wilander in 1982.
Speedy-forward to the current day, and his 19 Grand Slam crowns — a report 12 of that have come at Roland Garros — coupled with Federer's absence after knee surgical procedure depart him on the point of historical past at a venue the place he has received every of the previous 3 years.
But a mess of things, most commonly past his regulate, have conspired towards Nadal and presented hope to his leader opponents — specifically Novak Djokovic and up to date US Open winner Dominic Thiem.
Boris Becker, a former trainer of global primary Djokovic, urged the rescheduled event — driven again from its conventional spring billing because of the coronavirus pandemic — can be more difficult than same old for Nadal.
The heavier prerequisites may swimsuit hardcourt avid gamers extra and negate a few of Nadal's deadly topspin, most likely assisting Thiem who has completed runner-up in Paris two times in succession.
"This 12 months goes to be in particular onerous for Rafael Nadal. He's my primary favorite however the distinction between him and the opposite avid gamers is much less giant this 12 months than same old," stated Becker, a six-time Grand Slam champion.
"He's no longer in his common rhythm. He wishes fit apply. Typically, he used to be coming to Roland Garros having incessantly performed 4 giant clay tournaments, which he had most often received."
Nadal will head into the French Open with out a clay name beneath his belt for the primary time, having misplaced in directly units to Diego Schwartzman within the quarter-finals at Rome — his first event in six months.
"It's no longer a second for excuses. I've spent a very long time with out competing, I performed two excellent suits," Nadal, who skipped the USA Open mentioning Covid-19 considerations, stated following the defeat.
"It's a fully particular and unpredictable 12 months," he added. "I did my task right here. I did a pair issues neatly and different issues dangerous. A minimum of I performed 3 suits."
– 'Beatable on clay' –
In spite of the sense that is probably the most understrength model of Nadal on the French Open lately, Djokovic stays adamant the 34-year-old is once more the favorite to boost the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
"The report that he has there, the historical past of his effects, you simply can't put anyone in entrance of him," stated Djokovic, himself vying so as to add to his lone 2016 triumph at Roland Garros.
"However, you understand, unquestionably Diego confirmed that Nadal is beatable on clay," added the Serb.
"The prerequisites that they performed on, clearly heavy clay, no longer a lot leap, humid, evening classes, we’re going to have that as neatly in Paris. I'm lovely positive that he does no longer want that to a prime leap. I do know he likes the prime leap.
"He likes the new and heat and rapid prerequisites, the place he can use his spin so much. Although he's the favorite, I feel there are avid gamers that may win towards him there."
Some other championship run for Nadal, no longer accounting for doable walkovers, would take him to a century of wins on the French Open. Simplest Federer, Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have hit triple digits in wins at a unmarried primary within the Open generation.
Schwartzman agreed that Nadal used to be nonetheless the favorite.
"Rafa is the king. It's his area. He went to Roland Garros a few years enjoying excellent, every now and then no longer enjoying his best possible and he received.
"I feel Rafa is all the time there, the man who’s going to win."