The 20-time Major winner Rafael Nadal will embrace his 17th Roland Garros campaign against Alexei Popyrin on Tuesday. In his previous 16 trips to Paris, Nadal claimed 13 titles and suffered only two losses in 2009 and 2015 to dominate a single Major like no one before him.
Nadal played four tournaments on clay this year, digging deep to secure two titles after fending off three match points and gathering momentum ahead of his beloved clay Major, where he stands as the top favorite. Rafa has a tough draw, with a couple of dangerous rivals in the opening rounds and a possible Novak Djokovic clash in the semis.
Barbara Schett sees Nadal as the player to beat in Paris, saying that Roland Garros is his living room after everything he has achieved there since 2005. Schett backs Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas to challenge Nadal in the next two weeks, although she sees the Spaniard with another Roland Garros trophy.
Nadal debuted in Paris in 2005 and turned into an instant success, becoming the last teenager with a Major title. Until 2014, Nadal won nine out of ten titles in Paris, suffering only one loss in those years and entering the record books.
The Spaniard couldn't go all the way in Paris in 2015 and 2016, struggling with form and injuries and allowing Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic to steal the title from him.
Rafael Nadal is seeking the 14th Roland Garros title this year.
Returning stronger in 2017, Nadal claimed the previous four Roland Garros events in dominant style, extending his tally to 13 Parisian trophies and hoping for another in two weeks.
In his last pre-Roland Garros event, Nadal conquered the Rome Open for the tenth time, fending off two match points against Denis Shapovalov in the third round and toppling Novak Djokovic in the final clash to secure the 36th Masters 1000 title.
"We have this discussion every year. Every year I'm thinking there is no way Nadal can back up this title and win it again. He is looking strong, but obviously, you can't rule out Novak Djokovic or Stefanos Tstisipas, who is playing exceptionally well at the moment.
But then, if you look at the facts and how many matches and titles Rafa has won in Paris and how he plays every year - it's basically his living room. You have to say that nobody will beat him," Barbara Schett said.