Rafael Nadal will start his 18th appearance at Roland Garros against Jordan Thompson in the opening round. The 13-time Roland Garros champion is trying to overcome injuries again and have a strong showing at his beloved event.
Nadal and Thompson have already played a match in Paris, with Rafa triumphing 6-1 7-6 in the third round of the 2020 Paris Masters. It was Nadal's 1,001st ATP victory, and he had to work hard. for it in the second set. The Spaniard dropped 12 points on serve and defended the only break point to keep the pressure on the other side.
Thompson suffered two breaks in the first set, and pushed the World No. 2 to the limit in the second before falling in the tie break. Nadal lost five points after the opening blow, and Thompson couldn't keep up. The Aussie fended off a break chance in the second game after a Nadal backhand error, but was unable to repeat it at 1-2 when Rafa clawed back a break to force the lead.
The Spaniard kept clean in game five to open a 4-1 gap and establish a good rhythm. Nadal broke again in game six with a beautiful volley winner and converted the fourth set point at 5-1. Jordan held early in the second set with an ace, and Rafa responded with an unreturned serve in the second game.
Thompson hit another ace in the third game, already playing much better than in the first set. The Aussie opened a 3-2 lead with a forehand winner, and the Spaniard hit another comfortable serve to level the score at 3-3. Jordan served well in Game 7 to stay on the positive side, and Rafa kept up that pace for 4-4.
Wilander talks about Rafa Nadal
Tennis legend Mats Wilander believes that 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal is the "third or fourth" favorite to win this year's event. "No, I don't think he's the big favorite," Wilander said.
"We've had several years where Rafa won Roland Garros and he wasn't the favorite. He got there, played better, took advantage of the five sets and found a way. And I'm sure if he's there this year, he'll find a way to play his best tennis.
There were years when he came to Roland Garros and he was playing his best tennis, and he won, and there were years when he wasn't playing his best tennis, he did his best and that was enough to win," continued the Swede.
"And this could be one of those years where he will do his best and it will be enough, he will improve with every game and his confidence will grow. But in my opinion, he is not the favorite to win at this particular moment. Maybe the third, fourth favorite. And Novak, for me, is number one."