FRENCH OPEN 2021: Rafael Nadal’s magic numbers are 14 and 21

Return, for a second, to Could 8, 2005, when Rafael Nadal was nonetheless simply 18 and but to look in a French Open, not to mention win one.

After amassing his first trophy on the purple clay of Rome — which had been preceded by his first trophy on the purple clay of Barcelona, which in flip had been preceded by his first trophy on the purple clay of Monte Carlo — Nadal was requested that day whether or not he agreed with the notion that each one of this success would make him a preferred choose for his first trophy on the purple clay of Paris quickly thereafter.

In a solution brimming with a mixture of humility and customary sense, Nadal famous that, sure, it did appear he was deemed the favourite for Roland Garros each time he received a match on the floor, however “after two weeks, I don’t know if I (will) play the identical like now, no?” and, so, actually, the favourite for the French Open needs to be whoever was enjoying the most effective in the course of the French Open itself.

Everyone knows how that turned out again then and, as a rule, ever since.

When his favourite match begins Sunday — in Could, not September, because it did final 12 months due to the pandemic, and with crowds numbering greater than 5,000 on-site day by day initially and 10,000 or extra by the top, not merely 1,000, like final 12 months — Nadal shall be pursuing a 14th championship in at Roland Garros.

That will break his personal document that he retains breaking and, of much more historic heft, go alongside 4 triumphs on the U.S. Opens, two at Wimbledon and one on the Australian Open to offer the indefatigable lefty from Spain a complete of 21 Grand Slam titles in all, which might break the lads’s mark he shares with Roger Federer.

There are, actually, different tales to comply with over the 15 days of play in Paris.

Federer’s return after 15 months away from the Grand Slam stage due to two operations on his proper knee. No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic’s try to shut inside one main title of his rivals by getting his nineteenth, whereas additionally bcoming the primary man within the skilled period to win every Slam match twice. Members of the youthful set, reminiscent of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, are nonetheless making an attempt to get a primary, in the meantime.

Serena Williams, proprietor of 23 Slam singles trophies, is collaborating within the final French Open of her 30s. Naomi Osaka, who’s received 4 majors on onerous courts, is making an attempt to get previous the third spherical at Roland Garros for the primary time — after declaring she will not communicate to the media in the course of the match. Two ladies can say they’re defending French Open titles: 2020 champion Iga Swiatek, after all, but additionally 2019 champion Ash Barty, who didn’t enter the occasion final 12 months due to the pandemic.

Osaka, who opens the proceedings at Court docket Philippe Chatrier towards Patricia Maria Tig of Romania, is amongst a half-dozen main champions on the Day One schedule.

Nadal’s reign is so exceptional, so unprecedented, a 10-foot statue was unveiled in his honor on the place this week — a uncommon tribute to an lively athlete.

“It is true that I did one thing very particular right here on this occasion,” mentioned Nadal, who turns 35 on Thursday.

He’s 100-2 for his profession on the French Open, 459-42 general (.916 successful proportion) on clay, with 62 of his 88 titles on the floor, together with 12 at Barcelona, 11 at Monte Carlo and 10 at Rome.

“For such a very long time, I’ve been enjoying effectively throughout this a part of the season,” Nadal mentioned, by means of clarification. “In all probability the clay adapts effectively to my recreation, no?”

There are such a lot of measures of the person’s mastery, after all, however how about this one: The checklist of gamers who can boast of holding a successful document on clay towards Nadal consists of Alex Corretja, Olivier Mutis and Andrey Rublev.

That’s the checklist.

Every is 1-0 towards him.

“He’s one of many legends,” mentioned Rublev, a 22-year-old from Russia who beat Nadal at Monte Carlo in April.

Through the years, Nadal’s rare losses on clay have grow to be much more newsworthy than his victories.

What hasn’t modified from Could 2005 to Could 2021: Because the French Open will get underway, the person from Mallorca is the person to beat.

“I play with ardour, with clear targets and with love for the sport, no? In order that’s the primary points that I’ve been engaged on in my tennis profession, no?” Nadal mentioned. “Simply maintain enjoying with the appropriate depth and on the similar time have sufficient ardour to go on court docket each day and attempt to be higher participant. That’s the entire thing.”

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Observe Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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Extra AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports activities

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