Rafael Nadal triumphing on clay - and more precisely at Roland Garros - is one of the most certain things in sport, let alone tennis. The Spaniard has won a record twelve titles in the last fifteen years in Paris and is an easy favorite to lift his thirteenth in a few weeks.
However, it is safe to say that 2020 has been nothing but a year of mayhem and uncertainties after what transpired with Novak Djokovic at the US Open. Will the unexpected take place at the French Open or will Rafael Nadal reign supreme yet again despite a six-month hiatus from competitive tennis?
Legendary tennis player Martina Navratilova recently weighed in on this topic during a conversation with Tennis Channel.
The American was asked about her expectations for Nadal at the French Open and she very quickly pointed out a couple of issues that could hamper the Spaniard. That said, Navratilova still believes that Rafael Nadal will be the man to beat at Roland Garros.
The weather and lack of match practice will make it difficult for Rafael Nadal: Martina Navratilova
When Rafael Nadal pulled out of the US Open a few weeks ago, many fans and experts believed that it was to strengthen his chances for the clay swing. It was said that the greatest clay-courter was merely trying to give himself the best chance to win an unprecedented thirteenth title on the red Parisian clay.
The bigger achievement in this case, however, would be Nadal equalling Roger Federer's record tally of 20 Grand Slam titles.
But that would be easier said than done according to Martina Navratilova. The two-time French Open singles champion believes that the task at hand would be ‘trickier’ for Rafael Nadal, who has not played any competitive tennis in six months.
Navratilova feels that the lack of match practice would be one of the two reasons that could affect the Spaniard in his pursuit for glory.
“Well, it's gonna be trickier for him than usual,” Navratilova said. “Two reasons - first, he likes a lot of reps, a lot of match play and he won’t have, in his estimation, enough before the French Open.”
The next reason according to Navratilova is to do with the weather conditions in Paris during September-October. That part of the country usually experiences colder and wetter climate at this time of the year, and both are factors that greatly alter the experience of playing on clay.
The tennis ball enjoys lesser bounce and also skids off the surface quicker in such climate, something that is quite ill-suited for Rafael Nadal’s topspin-heavy game. Add to that, the factor of playing under lights for the first-time at Roland Garros, and Nadal could potentially find the going tough for himself.
However, despite these adversities, Rafael Nadal continues to be a ‘heavy favorite’ for Martina Navratilova.
"And the weather, it's going to be cold and rainy wet heavy condition,” Navratilova continued. “Rafa likes it lively so that his topspin really pays off and he can move people around the court much better. The lower bounce not so much. These two things will go against him but he's still a heavy favorite.”Published 07 Sep 2020, 14:40 IST