Many things seemed likely to go wrong this year for Rafael Nadal. The defeat at the Australian Open to eventual finalist Dominic Thiem, the global pandemic of COVID-19 and his beloved clay-swing moved to the fall, with only very few tournaments.
The conditions, for a champion who decided to skip the Western & Southern Open and the US Open in the Flushing Meadows bubble, seemed very negative, even when the competition resumed after the break for the lockdowns.
For the first time in his career, Rafa arrived in Paris without having won a clay-court title. But for a condor like him, the smell of blood becomes irresistible in the moment of truth, and his opponents, even in autumn Philippe Chatrier, represented inviting prey ready to be torn to pieces.
Including Novak Djokovic in the final. In Paris in the first round he will uplift Jahor Herasimaŭ 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 and in the second Mackenzie McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3. In the third round he eliminated Stefano Travaglia 6-1, 6-4, 6-0 and in the fourth round Sebastian Korda with the score of 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.
In the quarterfinals Nadal defeated the young star Jannik Sinner in straight sets. In the semifinal the Spaniard avenged the defeat suffered in Rome a few days earlier by Diego Schwartzman, eliminating him with a score of 6-3, 6-3, 7-6.
In his thirteenth final in Paris, on 11 October, Nadal defeated world number 1 Novak Dokovic by a score of 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, winning his 13th Roland Garros, the 60th tournament he won on clay-courts, for the fourth time without losing any set.
Rafael Nadal's 2021: to break Roger Federer's record
Thanks to this success he equaled Federer's career record of 20 Grand Slam tournaments previously held, becoming the 5th tennis player in history after Margaret Smith Court, Steffi Graf, Serena Williams and Roger Federer to win at least 20 Grand Slam titles in singular, as well as and the 3rd tennis player in history after Ken Rosewall and Dokovic to win a Grand Slam in 3 different decades (2000-2010-2020).
What can we say about such a man and his next 2021? Simple Rafael Nadal has everything (EVERYTHING!) To be able to overcome and definitively break Roger Federer's Slam records. Obviously he will have his biggest chance at Roland Garros, but also at the US Open.
If he does not suffer from particular physical problems (which he has more or less severely in all seasons), Nadal next year will become the tennis player who will have won the most Slam titles in the men's singles. A run-up that began in June 2005, when he won his first Major, always obviously in Paris.
There must be many, too many, astral conjunctions (or the jinx of his dedractors) in order not to allow him to break this record. Or another thing would be needed: a Roger Federer as resplendent as his return in 2017.