Roger Federer made one last push in the main tournaments from the 2017 Australian Open, winning three of the five main events until next year's Melbourne event and increasing his tally to 20 crowns. With a solid lead over the rest of the Tour until Wimbledon 2012, Roger had started to lose ground to Djokovic and Nadal in the following years before increasing the lead in 2017 and 2018.
Rafael Nadal had clinched 19 major crowns following successful campaigns at Roland Garros and the US Open in 2019, skipping New York last year after the pandemic and preparing for beloved Paris. Competing at a high level in Rome, just before Roland Garros, Denis Shapovalov knew that Rafa would have a great chance to catch Roger's 20 Major titles in Paris despite lack of form and matches.
Nadal claimed the 85th ATP title in February in Acapulco, just before the pandemic, and decided to skip the trip to New York and withdraw from Cincinnati and the US Open. The Spaniard lost in the Rome quarterfinals to Diego Schwartzman before finding his game A in cold and rainy Paris to win the 13th Roland Garros title and lift the 20th Major.
Despite difficult conditions, new balls and the Philippe-Chatrier court roof, Nadal was a player to beat in the French capital last October, winning all seven matches in straight sets and sailing towards the historic title of Major.
Nadal lost 23 games in the first four games, saving energy for more formidable opponents and maintaining his composure when it mattered most against Jannik Sinner, Diego Schwartzman and Novak Djokovic.
Rafa Nadal last played at the Citi Open 2021
Rafael Nadal proceeded to talk about mental strength, and how having a solid temperament can help overcome challenges in training and match-like situations.
Explaining that things are not always what they seem like, Nadal opened up about the difficulties he has faced. He also mentioned that even the strongest players can take a hit when the demands from the sport get too high. "It [mental strength] is a very important aspect and more [so] in a sport like tennis," Nadal said.
"It is vital to have a base from a young age. People tell me that I am very strong mentally, but I also suffer, like everyone else and I see it very black [sometimes]. But the essence of sport is that despite seeing something [as] almost impossible, you can [still] achieve it."