Heading into the French Open 2020, there is a feeling in the tennis circles that this could be the year someone topples Rafael Nadal again. Firstly, this is the first time the Spaniard enters the clay Grand Slam without a single title on clay-court, in the build-up. Moreover, Novak Djokovic, Rafa’s biggest rival, winning the Italian Open has surely given him a lot of confidence.
However, Djokovic has termed Rafael Nadal as the favorite at Roland Garros. Jim Courier, a former French Open winner, echoed the same thought too. The American also highlighted Nadal’s biggest challengers, namely Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem as second favorites.
“On paper, he’s surely the favorite. I would have Novak a very close second behind him. Probably tied with Dominic Thiem given Thiem’s run in New York and his awesome clay court play in the past four, five years,” Courier said in a recent interview.
Biggest challenge for Rafael Nadal
Nadal approaches the French Open without a title because he hardly had time to find his feet. Nadal has played just three tour-level matches in over six months. Courier pointed out that the unusual situation may spoil Nadal’s rhythm before the French Open.
“I think because he hasn’t had a normal run-up of matches, because he didn’t get to play that many matches in Rome, he’s not coming in with the normal comfort level, I would imagine, that he’s used to having,” Courier added.
The draw will be announced on Thursday and all eyes are on where US Open 2020 champion Thiem lands. Will he be in Nadal’s half or Djokovic’s half?
“The draw matters. If Thiem is on Rafa’s side versus on Novak’s side that matters maybe a little bit. Because having to go through two of them is going to be tougher than just one,” Courier opined.
Will the wind factor help Novak Djokovic?
Court Philippe Chatrier will have a retractable roof this year, which will nullify the wind factor for the most part. And that, Courier believes, will help Djokovic.
“He (Djokovic) typically doesn’t like it. Last year it was incredibly breezy in the semifinals and he seemed to be the most disturbed by it of the four players.”
After exiting the Italian Open, Rafael Nadal returned home to train at the Rafa Nadal Academy. Djokovic, meanwhile, won the event and overtook Nadal for most ATP Masters 1000 titles.