Rome: Defending French Open champion Rafael Nadal said Sunday he can’t wait to hit the clay courts of Roland Garros after claiming his first title this season and ninth Italian Open trophy.
“I am going to be there (Roland Garros) with time enough, as always,” said the 32-year-old Nadal, who wants to capture a 12th trophy in Paris.
“I’m going to repeat my normal routines. For sure I can’t wait to be there and have the feeling, see the stadium, watch all the new great things that Roland Garros is doing,” the 17-time Grand Slam winner said of the rebuilt Philippe Chatrier Centre Court. “I saw a picture. It looks great. Still open, still not closed. Is a different stadium, but the feeling probably will not be very different.”
Nadal’s first title this season, and particularly on his favourite clay surface, is a huge boost for the Spaniard. “I am happy to reach that level in the last tournament before a Grand Slam,” Nadal informed.
“But, as I said, for me I don’t want to talk about Grand Slams now. I never did in the past. This is an important title, now’s the moment to keep going,” added the Spaniard.
Nadal made it clear that being fit and healthy is his first priority now. “For me, the most important thing is to feel myself playing well and feel myself healthy, with the energy that I need,” said Nadal. “If that happens, experience is that I am going to fight for titles sooner or later.
“During the last couple of weeks, every day and every week have been better. And here we are finally with this great trophy, an important victory,” added the 11-time French Open winner.
Nadal had been stunned by Stefanos Tsitsipas, a player 12 years his junior, in the semifinals of the Madrid Open. But the Spaniard brushed aside the Greek in the semifinals in the Italian capital.
“Yesterday (Saturday against Tsitsipas) was probably was my best match on clay so far this season before today (Sunday), because today I played better than yesterday,” Nadal asserted.
Djokovic is targetting his fourth Grand Slam in a row after Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open. The 31-year-old’s only title in Paris was in 2016. He was the first to acknowledge that Nadal is the favourite in Paris.
“Nadal, No.1 favourite, without a doubt, then everyone else,” said the 15-time Grand Slam winner. “But I think it’s going to be a good tournament. Dominic Thiem is playing some really, really good tennis. He can beat anybody really, especially on clay.”