Rafael Nadal agreed ‘100%’ with Novak Djokovic’s suggestion that he is more ‘beatable’ at the French Open this year as he attempts to deal with a change in conditions.
Nadal, the 12-time champion at Roland Garros, is always the favourite for the clay-court Grand Slam but with the tournament starting in late September rather than May and with a change of balls, there is a sense that he is more vulnerable in Paris in 2020.
Djokovic put forward that case in Rome, where he eclipsed Nadal as the most successful player at Masters 1000 level.
‘Definitely Diego [Schwartzman, the Argentine who beat Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open] showed that Rafael Nadal is beatable on clay,’ said Djokovic.
‘The conditions that they played on, obviously heavy clay, not much bounce, humid, night session, we are going to have that as well in Paris.
‘I’m pretty sure that he does not prefer that to a high bounce. I know he likes the high bounce. He likes the hot and warm and fast conditions, where he can use his spin a lot. Let’s see. It’s going to be interesting.
‘I think even though he’s the favourite, I think there are players that can win against him there.’
Djokovic’s comments were put to Nadal ahead of his first-round match with Belarus’ Egor Gerasimov on Friday and he agreed with the top seed from Serbia’s assessment.
‘Yeah, 100% true,’ said the world No. 2 from Spain. ‘I always have been beatable on clay. He beat me a lot of times. But at the same time is true that I had a lot of success in this surface.
‘The situation is special. Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different facts. Ball completely different. Ball is super slow, heavy.
‘It’s very cold. Slow conditions. Of course, the preparation has been less than usual. But you know what, I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible, to practice with the right attitude, to give me a chance. That’s the main goal for me.
‘Be competitive on Monday, and let’s try. Just day by day. I know very well this place. Is about be patient, be positive, just trying to find the positive vibes every single day.’
While Nadal accepts the conditions – which he described as ‘a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament’ – are a necessary evil given the disruption caused to the tennis world by the coronavirus pandemic, he is less impressed by the change of ball from Babolat to Wilson – a move he feels could be ‘dangerous’ for the players.
‘I practised with the balls in Mallorca before the comeback,’ added Nadal. ‘In Mallorca with warm conditions, the ball was very slow, I think not a good ball to play on clay, honestly.
‘That is my personal opinion. Is not the right ball to play on clay court. Even with these conditions makes the things tougher, no? But I knew before arrived here. No problem at all.
‘Just accept the challenge. I really believe that the organisation need to take a look on that for the next couple of years, for the health of the players, too, because the ball super heavy becomes dangerous for the elbow and for the shoulders, I think.
‘But this year is what we have. Just staying positive with this. I know we going to have to play with this ball, so I need to find the best feelings possible with these conditions.
‘That’s what I am looking forward, just practising with the right motivation, right ambition, and then let’s see what I can do or what I can’t do.’
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