Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in the final of the BNL Internationals of Italy last Sunday, winning his tenth title at the Foro Italico in Rome. The Spanish phenomenon had to cancel a couple of match points in the second round against Denis Shapovalov, also facilitated by a few too many mistakes by the Canadian in the decisive juncture.
The performance of the 20-time Grand Slam champion rose exponentially over the weekend, having put in line Alexander Zverev (who had beaten him in Madrid the previous week), bomber Reilly Opelka and world number 1 Djokovic.
For the 34-year-old from Manacor this is the second seal in 2021 after the one in Barcelona, in which he was in turn forced to save a match point (during the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas). The Iberian will present himself at Roland Garros as the main favorite for the victory, even if he will have to deal with numerous fierce rivals.
In the event of a 14th triumph in the French capital, Rafa would overtake Roger Federer for the first time and hoist himself to 21 Majors. Interviewed by 'Marca' in the aftermath of the success in Rome, Nadal took stock of his form.
Rafael Nadal on his triumph in Rome
"Paris is the most important place in my career. I'll have a couple of days off and work on things that I think I can do better," the World No. 3 said. "I also need to relax mentally.
Winning always gives you an extra (boost) and the main thing is that I take a very important title. With my victory here my clay season improves." Rafael Nadal's campaign in Rome this year wasn't as straightforward as usual.
He was a set and a break down against Denis Shapovalov in the third round, and even faced two match points in the third set, but the 34-year-old managed to eke out a win in the deciding tiebreaker. "It was an honor to play with him (Djokovic) again," Rafael Nadal said.
"I don't know if it (winning in Rome) will influence Roland Garros. All I know is that I have won one of the most important tournaments in the history of our sport. I can't just think of four tournaments a year, it would be frustrating," he added.
"There are more things. It is obviously better to arrive at Roland Garros with this title under your arm." The French Open is one of the oldest, most prestigious, and the only clay-surfaced Major in tennis. On its red soil, few names have been able to find commendable success, primarily due to a certain someone named Rafael Nadal, who has absolutely dominated it like no other in the history of the sport.