Nadal Looks To Fire Up From The Start
Spanish star set to draw upon his experience in Paris
Rafael Nadal has been tested — by his body, as well as his opponents this year — in pressure situations and he arrives at Roland Garros full of confidence and seeking his 11th trophy at the clay-court major.
In spite of an outstanding 79-2 record on Parisian red dirt, the World No. 1 cannot define what makes May in the French capital so pleasing. “I’m not sure what it is about Roland Garros that brings out the best in me; but playing on clay, where I've had so much success, and also having to play best-of-five matches, all of that makes a difference."
Set to face Alexandr Dolgopolov in the first round, the 31-year-old feel’s he's physically in a good place, but is well aware he'll need to be better than good if he's to win his 17th Grand Slam championship trophy.
"I'm feeling good,” said Nadal, who had suffered from a right hip injury earlier in the year. “Of course, after a very tough start to the season with two injuries, I've managed to come back and play very well. I’ve played a lot of matches this season and have had good success. Every tournament is different, and here in Paris we're trying to get in some solid practices so that I'm fit and ready for my first match. I want to be as competitive as I can be from the start."
The Spanish superstar has dominated the spring European clay swing, winning 11th titles at both the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Nishikori) and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Tsitsipas), in addition to his 32nd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown — and eighth — Internazionali BNL d’Italia last week (d. A. Zverev). With a 23-2 mark this year, he has compiled a 19-1 record on red dirt.
But it was his Madrid quarter-final loss to Dominic Thiem, on 11 May, which snapped 21-match and 50 consecutive sets winning streaks on clay courts, in addition to battling wins over Fabio Fognini, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev at the Foro Italico in Rome, which have tested the mettle of the World No. 1.
"Everyone knows Madrid is the most difficult clay court event of the season," Nadal explained. "Because of the high altitude, the balls tend to fly. I lost. After that, it was important for me to stay strong mentally and to focus on Rome.
"I think I played a good tournament in Rome, winning some important matches, and at the same time pushing through tough situations — situations that I didn't have to endure at events leading up to this. I’ve had plenty of high-pressure moments, and I came back from a set down against Fognini. Then, I played a very tough first set against Novak in the semi-finals. The final had a little bit of everything. These situations help to keep me going and help me stay confident. It's tennis; it's normal to find yourself in difficult spots like I did [in Rome]."
After a one-week hiatus, following his loss in Madrid, Nadal is back at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings and looking forward to creating more history in Paris.