Less Than Ideal Year Has Worked Out Pretty Well For Nadal

WASHINGTON/PARIS, November 2, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The last time Rafael Nadal addressed the media in Paris was shortly after he won his 13th and latest French Open singles title last month. His 20th overall Grand Slam crown tied him with Roger Federer for first place. However, at that time Nadal wasn’t sure whether he would return for the indoor season at the Rolex Paris Masters this week or the Nitto ATP Finals in London in two weeks.

When Nadal was reminded of this Sunday during a virtual Media Day interview, he said he didn’t confirm after Roland Garros because “my goal was to play there and to be there under my best conditions.”

Guess what? Nadal’s in Paris and he’s ready to play. The World No. 2 is seeded first in the 56-player draw, which begins play on Monday at Accor Arena in Bercy behind closed doors by order of the French government.

As Nadal explained, “I needed to come back home and speak especially with the team and at the same time with the family, too. 

“So, we make decision together with the team and we thought that the best scheduled possible for today and for the future. Is true we are living under unpredictable and difficult circumstances, so difficult to plan a lot of things. So, I am just trying to be flexible and adapt myself to the conditions.”

Nadal, whose win-loss record this year is a very respectable 22-4, has been idle since winning Roland Garros in mid-October. This is only his sixth tournament of the season and third since the ATP resumed play in August. He’s won nine of his last 10 matches. This year, Nadal sat out both the Western & Southern Open and the US Open to stay closer to home. So, as he enters his final two tournaments of 2020, neither of which he’s ever won, Nadal is likely fresher and in better shape than usual this late in the season. Competition beware!

“Well, I like to play tennis. So, I like to play a little bit more than two tournaments every six or seven months, no?” Nadal said. His comments drew laughter from the media assembled virtually from throughout Europe and the United States. Nadal answered questions in English, French and Spanish. “I don’t know, but this year worked well. It was not the ideal situation. Of course, normally you need to – I like to play a little bit more before important tournaments, but not because of the important tournament going there, no? It’s because I like to play tennis, I like competition and that’s what I do, no?

“So, is nothing new that I played well after a while without playing tennis. I did it in the past. So that confirm that I can do it. But I hope next year we can have a more usual calendar and I can play some more tennis.”

Forget: This year’s French Open was a learning experience

Rolex Paris Masters tournament director Guy Forget, who holds the same position with the French Open, said it’s been a learning experience dealing with putting on two high-profile tournaments in Paris amid a global pandemic. He believes being flexible and adaptable – as well as gaining the trust and understanding of other organizations – have served him well.

“I know we have been criticized when we moved the dates of Roland Garros. We did it in a very quick way. You know, we got some people upset. Some players were really surprised. We did it on our own,” Forget said.

“The positive thing is now those same people, and especially players, you know, told us that it was the right thing to do. So, it worked.

“So, let’s say if tomorrow, which would be next year, we are facing the same issues, we would probably try to do the same exercise probably. But we will of course, now that we got together with the ATP, WTA and actually the confidence and the relation that we got throughout those difficult times was very positive. They will probably be the first people we will be talking to and we will have their support.”

Additionally, Forget said:I think it’s in best interest of everyone, players, WTA, ATP, the other tournaments, as well, and facing those big issues I think only – not only, but basically the bigger tournaments are the ones who can afford to still pay decent prize money, to pay with very, very little spectators and still maintain a good audience for television, which is sad. 

“But, you know, I think in those times the biggest tournaments can survive where a lot of other ones will face, I mean, probably more difficult issues. That’s why we have to be supportive as well with the ATP, to the smaller tournaments, as well. And we have quite a few in France that have been canceled.”

What they’re saying

• A week after winning the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium, for his second ATP 250 title of the year, Ugo Humbert of France admitted he doesn’t have any expectations in Paris this week. “Just really happy to be here, again. I really love this tournament. I’m looking for a good match against [Casper] Rudd. So, just happy to be here,” he said. Humbert plays Norway’s Ruud in the third match of the day from 11 a.m. on Court Central.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, the No. 2 seed this week, believes he has a better attitude this year than before. “I think this year my attitude has improved a lot. And also, my tranquility and how calm I am on the court have given me a lot of matches and also a lot of confidence in believing in myself when tough situations show up in the match,” he said. Tsitsipas, who has already clinched a berth in the Nitto ATP Finals in London, reached the round of 16 in Vienna before losing to Grigor Dimitrov. The World No. 5 rising Greek star was a semifinalist at Roland Garros.

• Since reaching the semifinals at the US Open, No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia has experienced uneven results: Consecutive first-round losses on clay at Hamburg and Roland Garros and a second-round loss at St. Petersburg. He reached the quarterfinals in Vienna before losing to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, whom he could face in the second round later this week. “I’m feeling not so bad. Of course, confidence could be a little bit higher when you go further in the tournaments. But physically and mentally, I feel ready for the end of the season,” he said.

“I don’t feel burned out. So, that’s the most important. Even though we can say maybe this season it’s tough to be burned out. We see a lot of withdrawals, a lot of tough moments from many guys. Me, I’m ready to fight and ready to show my best.”

Main draw rounded out with qualifiers and lucky losers

The final day of qualifying for the 56-player main draw concluded Sunday with seven qualifiers being slotted into the draw, led by No. 1 seed Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, who defeated No. 9 seed Vasek Pospisil of Canada, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2. Fucsovics will face main draw No. 15 seed Borna Coric of Croatia in Monday’s opening match of the first round. Also, four lucky losers – Radu Albot of Moldova, Salvatore Caruso of Italy, Federico Coria of Argentina and Laslo Djere from Serbia – were added to the draw Sunday evening. All but Djere will be in action on Monday.

Monday’s order of play