Over the past 15 years, Roland Garros and Rafael Nadal have become synonymous. The Spaniard has thoroughly dominated the clay Slam, winning it 12 times in the last 15 editions. Nadal also has an incredible 93-2 record at the tournament (he had to withdraw from his third round match in 2016).
This year, the lead-up to the French Open has been markedly unusual. The clay swing has been shortened, the weather conditions are expected to be different, and Rafael Nadal's own performance has been sub-par (he lost in the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters). And yet, the Spaniard remains the odds-on favorite to win Roland Garros for a record-extending 13th time.
As the man himself suggested in a recent interaction with LesEchos, the abnormal conditions will affect everyone equally. Nadal also believes that his past experience of making comebacks from long layoffs will hold him in good stead.
"Everyone will be affected by these unprecedented circumstances. This period is going to be a test. We will see how things evolve in the coming weeks," Nadal said.
"I have to keep the attitude as positive as possible knowing that getting back to the track is never easy at the start. I have to accept this challenge and that I will not necessarily have the best feeling of the game. But with the right attitude… I have already made so many comebacks after long periods without playing!"
"I feel a bit at home there" - Rafael Nadal on his relationship with Roland Garros
Having won the event a record 12 times, it would hard for any player to pick out a favorite memory. But Rafael Nadal said that if he had to, he would probably give a slight preference to the 2017 final - where he defeated Stan Wawrinka in straight sets to win a record 10th French Open title.
That also marked his first Major win since the French Open in 2014, ending a three-year dry run - the longest for him during his career so far.
"I have so many. Maybe the victory in 2017, it was very special, my tenth title," Nadal said. "But honestly I have enjoyed all these years and not just on the court."
"I have a lot of friends at the French federation, among the people who work on the tournament. I feel a bit at home there. I can feel the support of the crowd, of the people there. It's something hard to describe but when you play and get that support you feel great," he added.
Besides his tennis career and his charity foundation, one of the Spaniard's other pet projects is the Rafa Nadal Academy where he is often seeing practicing with and guiding younger players. In the interview, Rafael Nadal said that he remains open to coaching in the future.
"I wouldn't say that (coaching) will never happen," Nadal continued. "I have an academy and I like to give advice to young players and coaches there, so I can see myself helping these young people in the future."
For now, Rafael Nadal will be focused on his own career. The French Open begins on Sunday, and the Spaniard will begin his quest for a record-equaling 20th Grand Slam title against World No. 83 Egor Gerasimov in the first round.Published 25 Sep 2020, 17:44 IST