According to the opponent Nadal beaten in the last two finals in Paris, in any case.
“You go into the game knowing that even your best tennis, even if you play it for three or four hours, might not be enough. I mean, if you do, you might have a slight chance, but you have to go to your limit on every rally, every point, ” Dominique Thiem, who won the US Open less than two weeks ago, told The Associated Press.
“It doesn’t make it easy to get into the game,” Thiem said. “And that’s the mental part, I guess.
When the main draw competition begins on Sunday at Roland Garros, Thiem and all the other players in the men’s squad will chase Nadal as the 34-year-old Spaniard continues the story.
If Nadal does manage to win a 13th Roland Garros championship – extending his own record for the most singles trophies won by anyone at any major tennis tournament – he would win, more importantly, his 20th Grand Prix. Slam overall, equaling Roger Federerrecord for a man.
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Nadal’s count elsewhere: four US Open, two Wimbledons, one Australian Open.
He spoke on Friday in Paris about what “are probably the most difficult conditions for me at Roland Garros” – a lack of matches in 2020; a new brand of tennis balls (“super slow, heavy”); cooler weather and a lot of rain in the forecast.
“But you know what? Nadal said. “I’m here to fight and play with the greatest intensity possible.”
Asked recently about the possibility of catching Federer, 39, out for the remainder of the season after a pair of right knee surgeries, Nadal expressed a sentiment he had previously expressed.
Climbing up the Grand Slam list, Nadal said, is “not an obsession at all.”
“I know you pay a lot of attention to all of this,” he replied when the subject was brought up last week at the Italian Open, Nadal’s first tournament since February due to the pandemic of coronavirus.
“Of course I would like to end my career at 25, but (it’s) something that probably won’t happen. I’m going to keep fighting to create chances, and then when I’m done with my career, let’s see, right? he said. “I just want to keep enjoying tennis. And that’s all. If I play well, I know I have my chances normally. Otherwise, it will be impossible. That’s all. ”
There is, of course, another big game played around this time and, like Nadal, winning over Federer.
It would be ranked # 1 Novak Djokovic, who had won five of the seven major titles to bring his tally to 17 before being disqualified at the US Open for accidentally hitting a linesman with a ball as he was walking towards a substitution.
In this strangest year, the Grand Slam season will come to an end in France; the clay court major has been postponed from May until today due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Roland Garros is the last Slam, the last opportunity of this season. So we all know who the main favorite is: obviously it’s Nadal. And all he’s accomplished there, losing maybe a few games in his career on this court… is probably the most impressive record anyone has on any court, ”said Djokovic. “So, yeah, sure, you’d put him right there as a favorite to win it. ”
As a reminder: Nadal has won 93 out of 95 matches at Roland Garros and his last 21 consecutive matches.
So what is it that makes him so dominant there?
“He’s an incredibly tall tennis player. Probably on clay, a little better than on other surfaces, ”said Thiem. “He’s left-handed, which makes him very uncomfortable. And then his forehand, the topspin on clay, it’s cruel to play.
Thiem takes notes and hopes to emulate some aspect of Nadal’s game.
The others too.
In Rome, for example, double Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and one of his trainers, Artemon Apostu-Efremov, caught one of Nadal’s workouts.
“We were looking at the way he hits the ball, the acceleration, the energy he has on the pitch and the way he trains 100%. It’s always an inspiration, ”said Apostu-Efremov.
“This dedication to the court and the focus on the court,” he said, “is something that, for sure, could be transferred to Simona.
Nadal ended up losing his third game in Italy, which is neither the ideal form nor the kind of prep work he’s used to before Roland Garros.
Yet Nadal at Roland Garros is unlike anyone else, anywhere else.
“No matter what he feels, I’m sure he will find a way,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, semi-finalist of the 2019 Australian Open, seeded No.5 in Paris. “He always finds a way, every year. Clay is its surface. I am sure he will do well.
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