Paris: On Monday, Rafael Nadal embarks on what he has described as his “most difficult ever Roland Garros” while Serena Williams launches another attempt to clinch an elusive 24th Grand Slam title on her least successful surface.
Nadal, the undisputed king of clay, needs one more Major to equal Roger Federer’s record of 20, but the Spaniard comes to Paris short of preparation and unhappy with the French Open’s choice of new balls. “The conditions here are probably the most difficult conditions for me ever at Roland Garros for so many different facts,” said the World No 2.
“The ball is completely different. It is super slow, heavy. It’s also very cold, slow conditions.”
Nadal won the first of his 12 French Open titles in 2005 and has been beaten just twice in 95 matches here, but now must adjust to the unusual autumnal chill due to the Coronavirus-induced delay.
The event began on Sunday amid steady drizzle in temperatures struggling to reach 10 degrees (50F), conditions branded “ridiculous” by US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka.
The forecast is little better for day two with the new roof on Court Philippe Chatrier again likely to be closed although overcast weather could give way to clearer skies late in the afternoon.
The heavier atmosphere could negate some of Nadal’s lethal topspin as he heads into the event without a clay title under his belt for the first time.
The second seed is not pleased the French Open has switched to a new ball supplier and even believes it could pose physical problems for the players.
“I really believe that the organisation needs to take a look at that for the next couple of years, for the health of the players, too, because the ball is super heavy and becomes dangerous for the elbow and for the shoulders,” said Nadal.
However a first-time meeting with Egor Gerasimov, the World No 83 from Belarus, is unlikely to trouble him. The match begins today at 7 pm (IST).