Tennis legend Rafael Nadal will be bidding for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title and a 14th at Roland Garros when the French Open commences on Sunday after a week’s delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nadal has won 13 French Open singles titles, seven more than any other player in the Open era (Bjorn Borg, six) heading into this year’s edition.
Despite being seeded third, it would take a brave person to bet against the defending champion adding to his mammoth haul in the French capital.
Nadal appeared unfazed on Friday when he spoke about being in the same half of the as world No. 1 from Serbia Novak Djokovic and Swiss legend Roger Federer.
“I see it as completely normal. I’m not worried about it. I have a lot of work in front of me to play a potential match versus Djokovic [in the semi-final],” he said.
“They would need to play each other and I have my own path. My path right now is [Alexei] Popyrin [in the first round] and that’s where my mind is. My draw is hard enough to be thinking about anything else.”
Nadal will open his title defence against world No. 62 Australian Popyrin.
The 34-year-old Spaniard swept aside Djokovic in straight sets last year for his fourth consecutive French Open crown and 20th slam trophy, equalling Roger Federer’s all-time record.
Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the major, having not dropped a set throughout the fortnight. Only three players have previously won the French Open without losing a single set: Ilie Nastase in 1973, Bjorn Borg in 1978 and 1980 and Nadal in 2008, 2010, 2017 and 2020.
Nadal is the only player to have won the same slam more than 10 times. He has lost just two of the 102 matches played in Paris (excluding walkovers), losing to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals, while he has won each of the last 30.