Self-confessed Rafael Nadal fan Sebastian Korda has backed the Spaniard to make a successful return to the French Open next year.
Rafael Nadal withdrew from Roland Garros this year, making it the first time the Spaniard has missed the tournament since 2004. He also announced that he will stop playing for a certain period and stated that 2024 will possibly be his final year on the ATP tour.
Korda idolized Nadal growing up and even named his cat after the former World No. 1. His admiration of the 22-time Grand Slam champion was evident at the 2020 French Open, where he asked the veteran to sign his shirt moments after going losing 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 to him. Nadal obliged and even wrote a message of encouragement for Korda.
On Sunday, May 28, Korda defeated Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 to progress to the second round of the Paris Major. In his post-match press conference, the American youngster looked back on his 2020 French Open campaign, where he reached the fourth round before going down to eventual champion Nadal.
"It was a really cool kind of period for me, and especially during the COVID year, then coming out, playing, luckily got a wildcard from the USTA, getting comfortable with everyone, two, three weeks in the bubble," he said.
"Then just coming here, playing comfortable, playing one match at a time, got lucky enough to kind of make the fourth round, play against Rafa. I think that's where it all kind of started for me, and once again starting to feel comfortable around everyone," he added.
When asked about his signed shirt, Korda said with a smile:
"The signed Rafa shirt is hanging in my room."
The 22-year-old stated that Nadal's absence in Paris this year has thrown open the door for many players to triumph at the clay Major. He also predicted the 36-year-old to make a strong return to the tournament next year.
"Ever since I started watching tennis he was always the guy. I think he didn't lose here too many times and he was always winning here, basically. I think that's one of the most impressive things in tennis history, maybe sports history, is how many times he's won here and how much he's dominated here," he said.
"It definitely opens up the draw, that's for sure. But there is still so many unbelievable players playing. Yeah, he's definitely missed, but I think next year he'll be back here and back to his old ways.," he added.
Casper Ruud echoes Sebastian Korda's views, expects Rafael Nadal to make French Open return
Casper Ruud expects Rafael Nadal to make another appearance at the French Open as well, and be fit enough to make a run for a record-extending 15th title. The Norwegian stated that the Spaniard needs a break away from the sport to get back to his physical best.
Speaking on a recent episode of Eurosport's 'Ruud Talk', he said:
"I mean, it’s inevitable that the end is near. But I believe that we will see Rafa at least one more time in Roland-Garros feeling ready and fit to top the goal to win the tournament. He never gives up," Ruud said.
"So I just think he needs a little time off now. And I know that he's been trying to push sort of the clock and the time to be ready for Roland-Garros. And this year he couldn't do it. But now he has a full year."