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Corentin Moutet faces Rafael Nadal for the first time on Wednesday at Roland Garros.

Moutet On Nadal Clash: 'It's A Chance That I Deserve'

Frenchman to face his childhood idol at Roland Garros

For Corentin Moutet, a clash with Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is a childhood dream come true.

The 23-year-old Frenchman, No. 139 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, already eliminated one former champion this fortnight after defeating 2015 winner Stan Wawrinka on Monday. But his admiration of the 13-time Roland Garros champion runs deeper, going so far as sleeping with Nadal’s Roland Garros apparel on as a young boy in Paris.

“It's not sure it will be on the centre court, but Rafa, it's my dream,” said Moutet. “He’s no longer my idol because now I'm on the Tour, but I started playing tennis while watching him. I remember his first Grand Slam. I even imitated him when I was a kid.

“[In 2019], I played Juan Ignacio Londero [at Roland Garros] to potentially play Nadal in the next round, but I missed that occasion, so I was always thinking about that. it’s a great pleasure to be able to play him on centre court or any other court.”

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The crafty left-hander plays a brand of tennis that is in stark contrast to Nadal, opting for a variety of spins and slices that frequently draw errors from his opponents. His desire to be like Nadal delayed that style of tennis from flourishing, though. Moutet sought to replicate Nadal’s play as a junior player before eventually embracing the unique qualities of his game.

“When you're a kid, you need to have idols to identify to people. I was a lefty, so he was my inspiration,” said Moutet. “I tried to reproduce what he was doing. So I imitated his serve [and] his forehand until I started doing what was best for me, and it was not to imitate him.”

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Moutet’s personality is also opposite to Nadal. While the Spaniard is known as a singularly focussed workhorse, the Frenchman marches to his own drum. He took a selfie with a fan during the fifth-set tie-break of his second-round match with Sebastian Korda at this year’s Australian Open, and spends his downtime working on rap music that includes an EP released in 2020.

Although the Frenchman has let his emotions get the best of him on court at times, he’s always thrived on the energy of a raucous crowd. He used the atmosphere on Court Suzanne Lenglen to elevate his game against Wawrinka, striking 33 winners and breaking the Swiss star six times to score his first win at this event since 2019.

Nadal presents an even steeper test, but Moutet is ready to embrace the challenge. The man who joked after his debut Roland Garros win in 2018 that he’d celebrate by going out until 4:00am will look to lead a raucous party on Court Philippe Chatrier that brings the crowd firmly on his side.

“Of course I will try to win, because I'm a competitor and it's my profession. I train every day to play these kinds of matches and win,” said Moutet. “But to play against him, see how it feels, what type of player he is, it's a chance that I deserve. I'm very happy to have won the ticket to play against him.”

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