If Rafael Nadal claims the title at the French Open this year, he will become the most singles Grand Slam winner of the men’s tennis circuit. But, it will not be a piece of cake for the Spaniard because he needs to defeat his great rivals Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and several young guns like Alexei Popyrin before reaching the championship match.
Right now, Nadal is ranked No.3 on the ATP ranking board. As a result, he was seeded No.3 and listed with Djokovic and Federer in the first half of the French Open 2021 main draw.
When asking about his draw in the pre-tournament press conference, Rafael Nadal said, “I see it as natural. One player is almost 40 (Federer), another is nearly 35 (Nadal), and the other is 34 (Djokovic). It seems logical that younger players (will) climb in the Rankings.”
“Whenever that happens, you have these consequences (with the seedings). I see it as entirely usual. I’m not worried about it. I have a lot of work in front of me to play a potential match versus Djokovic (in the semi-final),” Spaniard added.
Defending champion explained, “They would need to play with each other, and I have my path. My path right now is (Alexei) Popyrin [in the first round], and that’s where my mind is. My draw is hard enough to be thinking about anything else. I must continue my preparation, focus on my routines and keep advancing in the way we want.”
“I Always Respect Every Opponent”, says Rafael Nadal
However, Rafael Nadal will begin his 17th Roland Garros campaign with Australian Alexei Popyrin. Spaniard has won 13 titles and a win-loss record of 100-2 on the Parisian clay, but he respects every opponent, whether a legend or a debutant.
Speaking about his opening encounter against World No.62 Popyrin, Nadal commented, “He’s young. He has the power. He has big shots. As always, I need to be ready for it. I need to keep practising [over] the next couple of days [and] try to be in the best shape possible.”
“I know every round is tough. I always respect every opponent. I have respected everyone since the beginning of my career. And Popyrin is a dangerous one, so I need to play well, and I’m looking forward to trying to make that happen,” Nadal confessed.
Rafael Nadal leads Alexei Popyrin 1-0 in their head-to-head series. At the Mutua Madrid Open 2021, the Spaniard bested Australian in straight sets(6-3, 6-3).