T.There are probably worse cities than Paris to end a love affair with, but if Rafael Nadal and Roland Garros go into divorce proceedings in the next 14 days, it will be a painful end to the sport’s most enduring relationship.
The Spaniard is angry with his hosts, no question about it. His hosts seem indifferent. And Nadal̵
While this oldest rival will most likely be the last of 128 candidates to face Philippe Chatrier’s court in two Sundays, the trip could take more off the hands of 34-year-old Nadal than 33-year-old Djokovic. The betting mood has certainly been with the Serbs since Diego Schwartzman defeated Nadal in the quarter-finals in Rome last week. And almost half of the online players this weekend support Djokovic, only a third stay with the defending champion.
Nadal wasn’t the only one wondering why the tournament switched from the lighter, “spinnable” Babolat ball that matches his vicious forehand to the heavier Wilson that doesn’t. “This is the first time we’ve used Wilson balls on the sand,” said Djokovic. “I agree that the balls are heavy. But it’s probably also because we’re almost in October and it’s very cold. The clay is also heavy and wet.
“It’s hard to tell if the ball is generally heavy or if we’re playing in these slow and difficult conditions. We have to accept it. That’s why we all came a little earlier to get used to the new balls and conditions, which are very different from Roland Garros. “
When Nadal dismisses the unset Egor Gerasimov on Monday and works past Dan Evans (the British No. 1 will play against Kei Nishikori on Sunday) to reach the quarter-finals, where the runner-up of the US Open, Alexander Zverev, is likely is opponent, it can be enough to bring about a reconciliation with the tournament.
On the other hand, the accountants of the Fédération Française de Tennis will be happy to see anyone who wins, as the winning bid for the championship ball was almost certainly much larger than that of the established and uninsured tournament that came with a $ 160 million renovation bill. € was charged for the center court in dire need of cash.
Plus, the place will be a ghost town for two weeks rather than the usual market, which might explain why Guy Forget, the more affable tournament director in four years of costly changes to the venue, held out to the last minute before local authorities forced him to aims to reduce the number from 5,000 paying customers per day to 1,000, in line with restrictions in the capital and across the country due to a worrying increase in coronavirus infections.
While the king takes on fear and doubt, Dominic Thiem, a serious pretext, couldn’t be happier in the top half of Nadal’s side of the draw. “I want to do my best in every tournament I play, especially here at Roland Garros,” said the new US Open champion as he prepared for his first-round game against Marin Cilic. “I’ve had four crazy years with two semifinals, two finals [against Nadal]. I love the conditions here. I love the whole tournament. “
If Nadal, who has played twice in six months, is vulnerable on his beloved sand, Djokovic looks solid, having won four titles (including his 18th slam) and losing one of 32 games in 2020 – and that by being disqualified in New York two weeks ago.
The world number 1 has turned himself upside down emotionally towards the end of the toughest season in the sport’s recent history – and says he will strive not to explode again – but has no sight of the price within his reach lost: Roger to overtake Federer’s record of 20 slam titles. The Swiss, who is resting his healing knees, can only watch from a distance as Nadal wants to pull alongside him – if he can keep Djokovic and younger opponents in check.
Mats Wilander, who won three of his seven majors in Paris and commented for Eurosport, said: “The temperatures in Paris will be colder than normal now and for the next two weeks, which is not very good for someone spinning the ball . like Nadal. Novak doesn’t care if it’s cold or warm. I think he’s the favorite, just before Nadal and Thiem. “
Andy Murray could be his French adventure Finis before the sun goes down on Sunday, when Stan Wawrinka’s knees are in better shape than the Scot’s hips. Both are about to retire as a fourth slam, but they’ll bring the best they brought to Chatrier in the final game on the first day.
Murray says of the 35-year-old Swiss man: “We always got on well and actually had no problems. We’ve probably been closer in recent years. I get in touch with him a little, he gets in touch with me after games and tournaments – which would not have been the case six or seven years ago.
“We both had different injury problems around the same time. There is mutual respect. I’m glad he managed to get back to top tennis after a bad knee problem. He’s a great, great player and a good guy. “
The former world number 1 added, “What I would love is six months of constant practice, tournaments, and rest to keep the schedule going smoothly. For example, what is difficult is where I am now I can feel good this week and then I’ll draw Stan in the first round – or Djokovic. In Cincinnati [last month] I punch [Alexander] Zverev who was sown three.
“You play against the best players at the start of the tournaments, and with the two-year ranking system, it is much more difficult to improve your ranking. Nobody loses points every week. To get to 50 in the world, you will need significantly more points than they normally are. The players increase their scores while I do [am not].
“Apart from Antwerp and the points at the end of the year, I hardly have any points on the computer. That’s the thing that is going to be a challenge: make sure you show up to the tournaments, ready to play against the top players and win at the start of the events. You rely a little on draws and hopefully take a few breaks.
“I am aware that it will be very difficult to get back to the top, but I feel like when I have five or six months to take part in the tournaments. I would like. I will definitely win more tournaments and get more good wins. “