Rafael Nadal is one of the fiercest and most competitive athletes ever seen in the history of sport. The Spanish phenomenon has won 12 titles at Roland Garros in his extraordinary career, thanks also to his attitude combined with an implacable style of play on clay.
Despite being considered a clay specialist at the beginning of his career, the former world number 1 showed all his qualities on other surfaces as well, reaching 19 Grand Slams. In the event of a 13th triumph in Paris, the Majorcan would equal the all-time record held by eternal rival Roger Federer.
Rafa has decided not to go to the United States to defend his title at the US Open, a choice that has generated some criticism from fans and insiders. His inimitable grit helped Nadal attract millions of fans around the world.
Among these is Kristy Pigeon, a pioneer of women's tennis in the 70s. The 70-year-old was part of the 'Original 9', namely those nine players who laid the foundations for the establishment of the WTA circuit. When asked about his favorite player, Pigeon immediately selected Rafael Nadal.
Pigeon on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer
The video posted by the Twitter handle of WTA showed Pigeon tackle some fun trivia questions. When asked about which tennis player she would like to play mixed doubles with, Pigeon was quick with her reply: "I will be playing mixed doubles with Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer and Billie Jean King.
And we would cream them" - Kristy Pigeon said. Asked about her favorite men's tennis player, the 70-year-old responded with Rafael Nadal's name once more. Pigeon also spoke about the contrast in the Spaniard's behavior on and off the court.
"My favorite player to watch is Rafael Nadal, I like watching Nadal because he is cute as a button and never gives up. He fights every point. He is just like a gentle giant almost, for he's sweet and nice off the court but a killer on the court," Pigeon said.
Pigeon made some interesting remarks about Serena Williams, who is still trying to match Margaret Court's record. The American made it to the semifinals at the US Open, where she collected Vika Azarenka's comeback. Nadal is thoroughly at home when he steps on court at Roland Garros.
In his 15 years of competing at the sport’s clay-court shrine, the 34-year-old Spaniard has lost only twice while once (in 2016) being forced to withdraw before a third-round meeting with an injury. No one has beaten Nadal at Roland Garros since 2015, when Djokovic ended a six-match losing streak against the Spaniard with a quarterfinal victory.
Djokovic will be primed to reclaim the title he secured four years ago and thus win an 18th major. Nadal will have time to play his way into form over the course of the fortnight. Thiem believes in himself on clay more than he does on every other surface—with good reason.