The next time you have a bit of time on your hands have a look at Rafa Nadal’s record at the French Open. You’ll soon come to the conclusion that the Spaniard’s record in Paris is not spoken about nearly enough in the world of sport. Incredibly, the 34-year-old has won the event 13 times over the course of his career, which is five more times than the man who has won it the second-most in history, Max Decugis, who triumphed eight times with the late Frenchman’s final win coming in 1914.
The King of Clay
Perhaps a better way of illustrating Nadal’s mastery on the clay courts of Paris is to say that there have only been three other winners since 2005. Indeed, Nadal has hoarded the titles for himself and bullied everyone else. Age doesn’t seem to be slowing the Spaniard down either given that he romped to his thirteenth title in the autumn of 2020 with a straight-sets victory over world number one Novak Djokovic.
Rafael Nadal won his first French Open title as a nineteen-year-old debutant in 2005. In 2019 he triumphed in Paris for a record-breaking 12th time.
Join us for a Rafa rewind over the next few days on SS6. pic.twitter.com/nDfVzxmMmX
— SuperSport ? (@SuperSportTV) June 4, 2020
With this in mind, tennis fans could be forgiven for thinking that the 2021 French Open is likely to be somewhat of a procession with Nadal forecast to put anyone in his way to the sword once more. While that is certainly the informed view, there is a potentially sensational subplot slowly brewing in the background courtesy of Roger Federer
confirming that he will be playing in the 2021 edition of Roland Garros.
The Fed Express begins to chug again
The 39-year-old veteran will make a stunning comeback at the French Open having last played the event in 2019, where he was eventually beaten in the semifinals by none other than Rafa Nadal.
Reuters (@Reuters) June 5, 2019
Crucially, the Swiss legend doesn’t plan on making up the numbers and has fired a warning shot at both Djokovic and Nadal, saying that he plans on getting back to the summit of world tennis. Federer is obviously raring to go but for some, there are concerns that it may be too much too soon after a lengthy layoff.
Indeed, the 20-time Grand Slam winner has already played in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in March and plans to use the Gonet Geneva Open in late May as a final tune-up before flying to Paris to compete in the French Open. Whether it is a bit hasty to try and cram in two events is up for debate, but the truth is that no one is expecting Federer to win Roland Garros.
Livin’ on a prayer
Astonishingly, the number eight in the world, as of the 6th of May, is priced by Betway at +2800 to be the last man standing in Paris. It goes without saying that Federer wouldn’t have entered many tournaments over the last twenty years at such fanciful odds, although that hasn’t affected his demeanor with the play as happy as ever.
Winning the tournament would be one of the most spine-tingling events to ever happen in the world of sport, but in reality, the 39-year-old naturally can’t go on forever. Importantly, however, that doesn’t mean that he won’t be able to enjoy a final swansong at the top. This upcoming season could very well be the last in the Swiss’ extraordinary career, but having confirmed himself as fit and raring to go, his last dance could be the most spectacular yet.
All’s fair in love and war
The aging superstar will have to find a way to beat his oldest foe who will not think twice about dispatching the elder statesman in front of an adoring crowd, desperate to witness the greatest sporting miracle in a very long time.
Indeed, Nadal will want to win for his own set of reasons, not least that if he does, he will overtake Federer as the player with the most Grand Slams in the history of the men’s game. Make no mistake, Nadal will have no problem bidding farewell to Federer and slamming the door shut on any talk of a fairytale ending.
Federer (@rogerfederer) May 4, 2021
If Federer is going to win in Paris and then stand on the Arc de Triomphe, trophy in hand, for a ceremonial picture in mid-June, he will have to pull out all the stops. There is one last chapter left in the phenomenal story of the world’s best player, the contents, for now, are unknown.