The 13-time Roland Garros champion plays against Cameron Norrie in the third round at Roland Garro,s reaching the last 32 for the 17th time in Paris. Rafa ousted Alexei Popyrin and Richard Gasquet in the opening two rounds to set the clash against an in-form Briton.
Norrie has been playing on a high level in 2021, already scoring 25 victories this season, 16 of those on clay in the last two months despite having only eight on the slowest surface when the season started. Before the match, Norrie said that he has nothing to lose against Rafa, feeling good physically and hoping to deliver his best tennis against the tournament's most decorated player.
Nadal and Norrie competed in April in Barcelona, and the Spaniard won that one 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and 34 minutes for a place in the semis. Nadal hit 22 winners and 17 unforced errors for his 64th Barcelona triumph from 68 encounters, losing serve once and earning four breaks that carried him home after a solid battle in the second round.
Nadal closed the opener with a hold at love at 5-1 and placed a perfect forehand return winner in the second set's third game for a break at love. From 30-0 down in game four, Rafa won four straight points to avoid troubles and keep the serve intact.
Cameron Norrie will try to halt Rafael Nadal in his Parisian kingdom.
Out of a sudden, the Spaniard played some loose strokes in game eight and experienced two break chances, repelling them with winners before Cameron converted the third to level the score at 4-4.
Staying calm, the home favorite grabbed a break at love a few minutes later and sealed the deal with a forehand winner in game ten to reach the last four. "It's another excellent opportunity to have a crack at him.
Obviously, I'm going to be the underdog going in there, so no pressure on me. I will go out, see if I can execute my game and frustrate him. It's another beautiful experience for me playing him again in the third round of a Major, especially where he's been very dominant.
I feel great physically, which is a bonus for me. I'll back my legs against anyone, even against Rafa. But I'm going to have to execute, and it's not going to be easy. It would be great for me to get a career-high. I think I'm a lot calmer in more significant moments than I had been in the past.
I've been very consistent and have kept the momentum with me, not really letting too many little things throw me off. I've been pretty dead set on improving and bringing my level every day. I don't think I'm playing, like, out-of-this-world excellent, but I'm doing a lot of fundamentals well, and I think that's paying off," Cameron Norrie said.