Rafael Nadal can tie Roger Federer’s 20 Slams with fortunate No. 13 in Paris

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For all the many qualities contributing to Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented superiority on the French Open — the bullwhip of a high-bouncing lefty forehand, the reflex returns, the cover-every-corner athleticism, the countless vitality and grit — there’s one component that stands above all the remaining.

According to the opponent Nadal beat within the last two finals in Paris, anyway.

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“You go into the match knowing that even your best tennis, even if you play it over three, four hours, might not be enough. I mean, if you do it, you maybe have a little chance, but you have to go to your limit on every single rally, every single point,” Dominic Thiem, who gained the U.S. Open lower than two weeks in the past, instructed The Associated Press.

“That makes it not easy to go into the match,” Thiem mentioned. “And that’s the mental part, I guess.” When main-draw competition begins Sunday at Roland Garros, Thiem and each different player within the males’s bracket will probably be pursuing Nadal because the 34-year-old from Spain pursues historical past.

If Nadal manages to say a 13th French Open championship — extending his personal record for probably the most singles trophies gained by anybody at any main tennis event — he would, extra considerably, additionally acquire his 20th Grand Slam title general, tying Roger Federer’s record for a person.

Nadal’s tally elsewhere: 4 U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons, one Australian Open.

Asked not too long ago about the opportunity of catching the 39-year-old Federer, out for the remainder of the season after a pair of operations on his right knee, Nadal expressed a sentiment he’s uttered earlier than.

Climbing the Grand Slam checklist, Nadal mentioned, is “not an obsession at all.”“I know that you put a lot of attention on all of this,” he replied when the subject was raised last week on the Italian Open, Nadal’s first event since February due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course I would love to finish my career with 25, but (that’s) something that probably will not happen. I’m going to keep fighting to produce chances, and then when I finish my career, let’s see, no?” he mentioned. “I just want to keep enjoying tennis. And that’s it. If I am playing well, I know I normally have my chances. If not, going to be impossible. That’s it.” There is, in fact, one other nice of the sport enjoying throughout this period and, like Nadal, gaining on Federer.

That can be No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who had gained 5 of seven main titles to lift his complete to 17 earlier than being disqualified on the U.S. Open for by chance hitting a line decide with a ball whereas strolling to a changeover.

In this oddest of years, the Grand Slam season will drawing to an in depth in France; the clay-court main was postponed from May till now 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 there: Obviously, it’s Nadal. And everything that he has achieved there, losing maybe a couple matches in his entire career on that court … is probably the most impressive record that anybody has on any court,” Djokovic mentioned. “So, yeah, of course you would put him right there in front as a favorite to win it.” For the record: Nadal has gained 93 of 95 matches within the French Open and his last 21 in a row.

So what makes him so dominant there? “He’s an unbelievably great tennis player. Probably on clay, a little bit better than on the other surfaces,” Thiem mentioned. “He’s left-handed, which makes it very uncomfortable. And then his forehand, the topspin on the clay, it’s cruel to play.” Thiem takes notes and hopes to emulate points of Nadal’s game.

So do others.

In Rome, for instance, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and one in every of her coaches, Artemon Apostu-Efremov, caught one in every of Nadal’s coaching classes.

“We were watching the way he hits the ball, the acceleration, the energy he has on the court and the way he practices 100%. It’s always an inspiration,” Apostu-Efremov mentioned.

“This dedication on the court and focus on court,” he mentioned, “it’s something that, for sure, could be transferred to Simona.” Nadal wound up shedding his third match in Italy, which is neither very best kind nor the form of prep work he’s accustomed to forward of Paris.

Maybe he sensed that coming, as a result of he talked earlier than his loss about returning to “competition without big expectations.” Still, Nadal on the French Open is not like anybody else, anyplace else.

“Regardless of how he feels, I’m sure he’ll find a way,” mentioned Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 2019 Australian Open semifinalist seeded No. 5 in Paris. “He always finds a way, every single year. Clay is his surface. I’m sure he’s going to do well.”

[Attribution HT.]

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