The Rolex Paris Masters is one of the very few titles Rafael Nadal has yet to get his hands on in his outstanding career, a record he is keen to set straight in eight days’ time. Having withdrawn from the Swiss Indoors in Basel last week to keep himself fresh for Paris and the ATP Finals in London, the world No1 arrived at the AccorHotels Arena on Friday, since when he has been putting everything into his training.
What was most noticeable about Nadal when he strode out on to the Central Court was that there was no trace of any strapping on his right knee, a part of his body that has been injury-prone throughout his career. Having left the Shanghai Masters a fortnight ago with the knee bandaged-up, this was a clear sign of his confidence in its ability to withstand the end-of-season rigours.
After sharing a quick joke with the exiting Feliciano Lopez about the fortunes of FC Barcelona, Nadal took up residence on the court and quickly showed how relaxed he is about his troublesome knee.
Annoyed at missing a shot, he struck the joint in question with his racket, paused for a moment as if he had done himself harm, and then burst out laughing with his team: coach Carlos Moya, physio Rafael Maymo and agent Carlos Costa. There was no sign, however, of Uncle Toni, who recently made way for Moya.
On the other side of the net was Grigor Dimitrov, with whom the Spaniard has enjoyed an absorbing tussle or two in 2017. The man from Mallorca stepped up the intensity as the session neared its end. Absent from Paris due to injury last year, Nadal seemed very pleased to be back at the RPM, judging by the smile on his face as he chatted with his team at the end. The recipient of a first-round bye, the No1 seed will play his first match on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Photos: Corinne Dubreuil / FFT (Rolex Paris Masters)