The 13-time champion was upbeat and joking with reporters as he talked about his chances at this year’s edition, his 18th career appearance on the terre battue in Paris, hopefully drawing a parallel between this year’s Australian Open, where he made a stunning run to his 21st major title.
“Today looks difficult and looks like there are players that are in better shape than me, without a doubt, and is true today, but you never know what can happen in the next couple of days,” Nadal said. “Same happened in Australia, and I put myself in a position to have a chance. And here is no different.
“[What] I have to do is believe in my chances, believe in my daily work, and then stay positive and believe in my real chances.”
Turning that belief into a thrilling run will hinge largely on the condition of Nadal’s left foot. He didn’t want to dwell on the issue with reporters, but assured the press that he is feeling much better than he did last week, when he was grimacing in pain as he fell to Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in the round of 16 at Rome.
“What happened in Rome is something that happened very often in my practices,” Nadal said. “But yeah, I was suffering after that for a couple of days, but I feel better. That's why I'm here.”
If there is a looming state of worry about the foot, Nadal didn’t let on about it on Friday. He has practised every day since Wednesday in Paris -- including a session with Sebastian Korda on Friday -- and seems genuinely sanguine about the status of the chronic injury.
“My real goal is just practise well, put myself in a position to be competitive since the very first round, and then let's see what can happen,” said the Spaniard, who faces Australian Jordan Thompson in the first round.
When asked to look ahead to the brutal draw that could see him face Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, Nadal stressed that there is a long way to go before a resumption of one of the greatest rivalries in the history of men’s tennis.
“Mentally for me it doesn't matter,” said the soon-to-be 36-year-old. “In terms of tennis, of course the top of the draw you see the names, of course is a very tough one. But we are in a Grand Slam, and you never know what can happen.”
What does matter to Nadal is giving himself chances to claim the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a record-extending 14th time. And if there is time on his off days, he will keep his spirits high by watching his beloved Real Madrid in the Champions League final, to be played on Saturday May 28 at Paris' Stade de France.
“I am here to play Roland-Garros more than anything else, no?” Nadal deadpanned, then quickly cracked a smile. “But of course I have my tickets already.”
Source: Roland Garros
Photos: FFT; HMB-Media