French Open 2018: Rafael Nadal’s clay-court exploits in numbers

Heather Diaz
June 2, 2018

Even if trying to beat Nadal on clay may be akin to climbing Everest in flip-flops, it is still not impossible to beat the greatest clay court player in history.

"I expect it to be a tough one, because in the first round of the tournament, it's normal to be a little bit nervous, but I know I have my chance, and for sure I will fight for it", commented Halep. "But I also tried to be a bit more aggressive than normal and also take a few more risks, and that day it really worked".

In the women's event, Romania's Simona Halep is regarded as the favourite as she aims to secure her first Grand Slam title.

Nadal has noticed the rise of a handful of talented players in recent years, represented by second-seeded Alexander Zverev and Austrian Dominic Thiem. "And my goal is to get to my top". He's played 11 matches in 2018, going 4-7.

He was also the fourth seed when running out of gas late in the match against fellow youngster Chung Hyeon earlier this year at the Australian Open, but there can be no doubt that a major breakthrough is only a matter of time.

That leaves Nadal, who still is very much the King of Clay; were he to win a record-extending 11th championship at Roland Garros, it would mark the sixth consecutive Grand Slam trophy that went to him or Federer. "I mean, this is not something I worry about, to be honest". "But right now, he's in control of me".

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Defending champion Nadal dropped only four games against Guido Pella, the BBC reports, as he "eased" into the third round at Roland-Garros.

There will be another all-German affair in the women's draw, with Angelique Kerber taking on Mona Barthel.

Maria Sharapova will be getting back on the clay of Paris for the first time in two years, after missing the 2016 tournament while serving a drug suspension, then being denied the wild-card entry she would have needed in 2017 because her post-punishment ranking was too low to earn an automatic berth in the field.

She ended that year as world number 1 but has slid down the rankings - at one point dropping out of the top 20 altogether - but her new coach Wim Fissette says she is refreshed and raring to go. "With all the pressure on her, and also with all the off-court activities as well - because as No.1 you have to do so much more off court - she didn't feel fresh in her head a year ago", Fissette told wtatennis.com. She feels fresh again. "I think she should have been seeded".

And the only reason maybe the top four or five are not the top four or five right now is because Andy's hurt, Novak's coming back from injury and Wawrinka's coming back from injury.

The owner of 23 major singles titles, a record for the 50-year Open era, Williams hasn't played on one of her sport's most prestigious stages since winning the Australian Open in January 2017, while pregnant.

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