The former World No. 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero, won the title of Roland Garros 16 years ago. Two years later, another Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, aged 18, triumphed in the Parisian land battle. Little did Ferrero know that Nadal would be victorious in the Grand Slam on clay 11 times. And the No. 2 in the world could join that count in the next fifteen days.
"Rafa, if he's 100% physically, I think he's going to win again," Ferrero told ATPTour.com.
But Ferrero, who constantly keeps up with the ATP Tour throughout the year, especially at the ATP Masters 1000 and Grand Slams tournaments, knows it will not be easy for his compatriot. Nadal needed until Internazionali BNL d'Italia won his first title of the season, Spain's longest title drought to start a year since 2004, when he captured his first tour-level trophy. Even with Nadal now near his best level, there are many challengers ready to leave their own mark in Paris.
"Thiem also think he's one of the favorites, he played the final last year. [has] He had the experience he needs to create an opportunity to win a Grand Slam on clay after beating Rafa more than once, "said Ferrero of Dominic Thiem, who after defeating Nadal in Barcelona has defeated the legendary lefty in clay in three consecutive seasons. "Obviously Novak will be there. Other guys, it's hard to say. Roger, on clay, the best of five sets, I'm not going to put him as one of the favorites this time. "
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Federer is competing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015. Before playing in Madrid and Rome, the 37-year-old had not entered a clay court event since 2016. He reached the quarterfinals in each of those two Masters 1000. Tournaments
On the other hand, Djokovic is the No. 1 in the world, and gained momentum to go to Paris by lifting the trophy at the Mutua Madrid Open. And in Rome, the Serbian fought through two strenuous three sets, in the quarterfinals against Juan Martin del Potro and the semifinals against Diego Schwartzman, to reach the final against Nadal.
Although Djokovic fought hard, pushing the match for the championship to a third set, Nadal finally lifted his ninth trophy at the Foro Italico.
"It was a bit strange, the game, because the first set and the third set were not the battles you expect from this kind of matches in the finals or if you see some of the matches that Novak and Rafa have played in the past," he said. Ferrero "It was very rare to see 6-0 and then the third 6-1. Rafa, I think he was playing very aggressive, maybe a little more than the other tournaments. Of course, it hurt Rafa to lose in the tournaments that maybe he was expected to win as Barcelona, Monte Carlo or Madrid.
"I wanted to win the tournament very badly and you could see from the start in Rome and definitely in the final, it was from the first point". Maybe Novak's concentration was not the same as Rafa's. [throughout the week]. "
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Now, you can make a lot of history at Roland Garros. Nadal could claim a record number 12 of the Coupe des Mousquetaires, Djokovic could win his fourth consecutive grand, doing it for the second time in his career, and Federer can lift his 21st Grand Slam trophy.
"When I was playing, it was strange to think that someone was going to achieve this kind of numbers. But now you see Roger, Novak, Rafa and them, it's like normal numbers for them because they are fighting for all the Grand Slam wins, "said Ferrero." After being number 1 and achieving a very good race , it is almost impossible to think that someone can achieve this type of numbers ".
Ferrero also believes that the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer build their level to reach the maximum in the Grand Slams and Masters 1000 events.
"I think now they play more for the numbers, for the records," said Ferrero. "It's the story of numbers and who's going to win more Grand Slams and who's going to win more Masters 1000. They have to have great motivation there and those numbers could be one of those."