By the draw's will, the 13-time Roland Garros winner Rafael Nadal will face a former junior champion Alexei Popyrin in the opening round in Paris. Seeking the 14th Roland Garros crown, Nadal will have to dig deep against an explosive rival who likes to dictate the rallies and impose his strokes, already playing well in the previous clash with the Spaniard from a couple of weeks ago.
The Aussie took down Jannik Sinner in Madrid to set a thrilling clash with the 20-time Major winner Nadal. Ready to impose his pace at any cost, Alexei threw everything he had on Rafa, staying aggressive from start to finish and overpowering the king of clay.
Nadal opted for a more moderate performance, not following the opponent's 20 winners and unforced errors and still doing enough to score a 6-3, 6-3 triumph in 79 minutes. Rafa saved five out of six break chances and stole the rival's serve four times to forge a crucial difference and advance into the quarters.
Popyrin is confident ahead of the next clash with the king of clay, saying the pressure is on Rafa and that he has nothing to lose.
Rafael Nadal and Alexei Popyrin will battle in the opening round at Roland Garros.
"There's nothing to lose for me against Rafa in Paris.
I think he's got all the pressure on him and, basically, probably a 99.9% chance to win that match considering his record here - but I'll take that 0.1%! It was a little bit of a shock when I heard I'd drawn him.
But I'm really looking forward to it. It's the hardest draw you could get, in the first round especially - but I'm up for the challenge. I definitely do. I don't go into any match thinking that I couldn't win.
I definitely do think I have the game to beat him. I think my game's very dangerous for any player - I just need to find the consistency. If I bring my A-game, who knows what can happen this time. Winning the juniors there has given me confidence here ever since.
It was only the juniors, though. Doesn't really stand up against Rafa and 13 titles! Tell Rafa that I've won the French juniors, and he'd be, like, 'oh, yeah?' He'd swat that like a fly!" Alexei Popyrin said.