Rafael Nadal, winner of the Italian Open 2021 will be the great protagonist, as well as the favorite for the final victory, at Roland Garros 2021, and how could it be otherwise? If the 14th should triumph in Paris, the former world number 1 would overtake Roger Federer in the all-time rankings for the first time, with 21 Grand Slams.
The 34-year-old from Manacor will have to deal with a large group of fierce rivals, starting with a Novak Djokovic intent on redeeming the heavy blow he suffered last year. Not to underestimate Dominic Thiem, whose start to the season was anything but good, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won the Masters 1000 in Madrid and Monte Carlo, respectively.
During a recent interview with Bleacher Report, the 20-time Grand Slam champion returned to part of the historical rivalry between him, Federer and Djokovic. Shortly after the final in Rome, the Serbian admitted that there is no greater challenge in tennis than facing Nadal on clay-courts.
Nadal said: "Roger Federer, I and Novak Djokovic have been fighting each other for so long. We have always had enormous mutual respect, we know how difficult it is to win a tournament when the other two are present. Receiving such a compliment from a phenomenon like Novak is really fantastic."
Nadal also focused on his preparation for Roland Garros: "Not much has changed over the years, even if the age is different, so the approach has undergone some minor changes. I have a little more passion now than at the beginning of my career, but it's all a matter of experience."
Rafael Nadal and the Slam record
Rafael Nadal will once again be the main favorite for the victory at the Roland Garros 2021, which will start a week late due to the delicate health situation in France. The Spanish champion is currently tied with Roger Federer at 20 Slam titles, but if he should won also the parisian Slam this season, he would make an unexpected and historical overtaking.
The former world number 1 will have to watch his back above all from Novak Djokovic, intent on taking revenge after last year's beating, Dominic Thiem (two-time finalist in Paris), Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.
The 34-year-old from Manacor enters the second Slam of the season with two trophies on the showcase, won respectively in Barcelona and Rome last week. Unlike many other times, the Iberian did not seem invulnerable on this surface, having had to cancel match points in both tournaments won in 2021.
In a long interview with Bleacher Report, Nadal insisted that his real goal is not the all-time Slam record. Nadal said: "I'm not approaching Roland Garros as if it were an extraordinary opportunity to showcase the 21st Grand Slam” - the 13-time Roland Garros champion made his debut.
I am preparing myself as if I were playing the most important event of my tennis career. Of course, I would be happy to win the 21st Major, but for me it is above all Roland Garros." Nadal knows that the pressure will be all on his shoulders.
He added: "The day you no longer feel the pressure, it risks being the time to say goodbye. Without those emotions, it is difficult to compete at the highest level. I think we players need to feel those feelings. I want to play well, I know the things I have to do to get to the end.
I hope to be able to create many opportunities and to be very competitive in one of my favorite events." Roger Federer will also participate at the Roland Garros 2021, in his first ever Slam since the Australian Open 2020.