What Makes Rafael Nadal Unbeatable at French Open?

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Rafael Nadal will approach the French Open 2020 in an unusual situation. Never before has the 19-time Grand Slam champion entered the French Open without a single title in the clay-court season. Nadal returned to competition at the Italian Open 2020 but bowed out in the quarter-finals.

With Novak Djokovic winning the Roman title, the focus on Nadal’s exceptional streak at Roland Garros will substantially increase. However, Rafael Nadal isn’t a 12-time champion at the event for nothing.

Heavy top-spin on the pounding forehands

Talking about his game, Nadal has mastered the art of applying heavy topspin on his shots over all the years he has spent practicing on clay. On the red dirt, Nadal’s forehand cross-court with the extra top-spin is even more difficult to counter.

Rafael Nadal in action
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – September 14, 2020 Spain’s Rafael Nadal during a practice session Pool via REUTERS/Clive Brunskill

Nadal’s lefty serves into the backhand of the right-handed players, who are more in number, are already difficult to tackle. But that’s an advantage that any lefty can have. That’s where Nadal’s extra slice into the serve and a forehand with the extra top-spin come into play.

The ball bounces more on clay, especially at the French Open, and that’s when Nadal’s heavy groundstrokes become hard to conquer.

The unmatched endurance levels of Rafael Nadal

The slowness of the surface at the French Open results in many long rallies and lengthy matches. That’s where Nadal’s physicality and endurance abilities work the most in his favor. He is considered a superhuman athlete on the court, with opponents usually using words like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘greatest fighter’ to describe him.

Nadal has worked on his fitness since a very early age, and that pays dividends when most needed. Another testament to his fitness is the way he moves on the court despite enduring so many injuries over his career. Footwork becomes all the more important on clay. Nadal’s ability to swiftly change gears is second to none.

Hot conditions at the French Open

The hot weather every year at the French Open helps the surface stay to its true form, and that’s where no one has been able to match Nadal. When natural factors work against him, his indomitable will to succeed helps him find a way somehow.

Rafael Nadal – a natural favorite at the French Open

The last time he lost there was to Djokovic in 2015, a year where he struggled with injuries.

Nadal enters the French Open 2020 with a 93-2 record at the event. A 13th title will also give him his 100th win on the Parisian clay.

Rafael Nadal at Italian Open 2020
Rafael Nadal in action at Italian Open 2020 via REUTERS/Clive Brunskill

He is an automatic favorite at the event, as admitted by Djokovic himself. “A lot of people will agree that he’s the No.1 favorite. The record that he has there, the history of his results, you just can’t put anybody in front of him,” Djokovic said of his great rival recently.

The pressure to win is higher every year, as his past records keep adding to his legacy at the French Open. Every year, Nadal’s opponents are motivated even more to get the better of him. But that’s where he feeds on his successes at the event and manages to see off challenge after challenge.

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