Former French Open finalist Henri Leconte compares Spanish tennis legend Rafael Nadal to an F1 racing team, which produces a new car every year. Nadal has won the French Open a record 12 times and lost only 2 matches at the tournament during his career (he withdrew before the third round of the 2016 French Open due to a wrist injury).
Speaking to Stats Perform, Leconte says it is incredible how the Spaniard has changed his game and improved over the years. "When you think about it, 12 Roland Garros in 15 years (whistles). You don't think it would be possible.
If someone told you that, you'd say, 'You're crazy.' "What's astonishing to me is how he evolved physically, how he changed his game, how he improved. "I like to compare him to an F1 racing team which is producing a new car every year, he is coming every year with a new way of playing and adapting.
He works on his serve, on his right hand, his left hand, and he's always changing some things. "He's been able to improve every year which allowed him to win Roland Garros, this is amazing. And mentally, he's out of this world.
To play at his level at Roland Garros, under these circumstances, physically and mentally, I couldn't even play one set like that. "During my time, [Sergi] Bruguera was a bit like him, and when I had to play him on clay, with my style, I knew it was over, I was about to run everywhere and get destroyed."
The former World No. 5 says opponents are intimidated the moment they hear that they have to play Nadal on clay, comparing him to a cheetah. "Rafa is extraordinary. This is what's impressive and people don't realise how much he works."
"When they tell you, 'You play Rafa in the first round' If you play him at Wimbledon or the Australian Open, you're like (sighs). It's going to be hard. "But on clay, and it's five sets, so three sets to win, you just started the match, it's 2-2, you visited Roland Garros, the Bois de Boulogne, you ran everywhere, and it's only 2-2 and you've been playing for 25 minutes.
You are thinking, 'I have three more sets like that.' "This is where he is really strong. He's like a cheetah, he's toying with you, and he decides to kill you, it's over. He's playing with you, 2-2, 3-3.
We've seen many players going to 3-3, 4-4, they even get a set point, and suddenly, it's like a bottle of champagne exploding, and then they lose 6-1, 6-2. They implode, they can't take it physically." The flamboyant Frenchman says that only a few players - the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka - have the ability to match him on clay.
"Some players can contain him, but he still can overcome them on clay, someone like Stan Wawrinka who can hit very hard, or Novak Djokovic, or [Andy] Murray who could match him at one point. "Or you have a guy who did it once in his life, Soderling, he hit flat, full strength on the lines, and it worked.
Rafa is amazing." Nadal is currently ranked No. 2 in the world and will be aiming to win the French Open for a record 13th time in his career when the next edition of the tournament takes place.