'Rafael Nadal hasn't had a normal run-up of matches', says former No. 1

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'Rafael Nadal hasn't had a normal run-up of matches', says former No. 1

Next week the tennis world moves to Rafael Nadal's reign. It is not played in Mallorca, where the World number two was born, but in Paris where Roland Garros is played. The Spaniard has broken all kinds of records on French clay and is aiming for the Parisian Grand Slam for the thirteenth time in his career.

A simply incredible number, because there is no tennis player in history to have ever reached double figures in a single Grand Slam. Roger Federer is stuck at eight Wimbledons, Djokovic has won the same number of times at the Australian Open and in the past the French Max Decugis has also won eight Roland Garros.

The twelve titles in Paris are an incredible milestone for Nadal, but the Spaniard has a great chance of equaling another outstanding record. These are Roger Federer's 20 Grand Slam titles. The Swiss is still in first place in this special ranking, but is closely followed by Nadal who is still at 19.

Federer will not be in Paris, while the Majorcan looks like the man to beat, despite the defeat in the quarter-finals at the Rome Masters. Jim Courier believes Rafael Nadal doesn't have the claycourt momentum that he usually has leading up to the French Open.

Nadal is a 12-time winner in Paris but has always won a title on clay leading up to Roland Garros.

Courier on Rafael Nadal

"On paper, he’s surely the favorite. I would have Novak Djokovic a very close second behind him probably tied with Dominic Thiem, given Thiem’s run in New York and his awesome clay court play in the past four, five years," Jim Courier said in a recent interview with Tennis Channel.

"I think because Rafael Nadal hasn’t had a normal run-up of matches, because he didn’t get to play that many matches in Rome, he’s not coming in with the normal comfort level, I would imagine, that he’s used to having, where he typically comes in with at least one clay court title under his belt,” Courier said.

Nadal played his first tournament in seven months in Rome, but was well-beaten by Diego Schwartzman in the last eight of the Italian Open. Djokovic went on to beat the Argentinian in the final, but he saw enough to expect an interesting French Open.

“Even though he lost this week, I still think a lot of people will agree, [Rafael Nadal] is the number one favourite and the record that he has there, the history of his results, you just can’t put anybody in front of him,” Djokovic said.

Nadal was some way short of his best when he lost to Schwartzman, and Djokovic says that may be down to the conditions, which could open the French Open up more than usual. “Definitely Diego showed that Rafael Nadal is beatable on clay,” he explained.