Hot: No. 1 Rafael Nadal (17-1) – The record says it all. In fact, that lone loss to Dominic Thiem may have improved Nadal’s chance to win his 11th French Open. Nadal’s 21-match winning streak came to an end in that match, along with his record of 50 consecutive sets won. That all took pressure off Nadal. He showed in winning Rome last week that the loss just rekindled his ferocious appetite.
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Nadal also has snuck ahead of Djokovic in two other areas: his overall Big Title count and his improved Big Title conversion rate. Nadal now has 48 Big Titles to Djokovic’s 47, and the Spaniard has won one Big Title every 3.47 opportunities, while Djokovic, who lost to Nadal in the Rome semi-finals, has won an average of one Big Title every 3.51 chances.
- French Open 2018: Australian great Ken Rosewall expects to hand Rafael Nadal trophy then head home | indianexpress.com
“Unless anything unforeseen happens to Rafa — his reputation is scaring everybody — so I’m just going to go over there and give him the trophy and come home,” the eight-times grand slam champion told Reuters.
Perhaps the question heading into next week’s French Open should be: “Who can take a set off Rafael Nadal?” instead of “Who can beat Nadal?'” The Spaniard, dubbed the “King of Clay,” is the white-hot favorite to land a record-extending 11th title at Roland Garros.
“Rafa is for me a clear-cut favorite to win No. 11,” six-time grand slam winner Boris Becker, who was coaching Djokovic when the Serb downed Nadal in Paris three years ago, told CNN Sport. “He’s by far the favorite. There are a couple of others coming around the block, but I wouldn’t even name them because in my eyes if Rafa stays healthy, injury free, I don’t see anybody taking it but him.”
In the third set on Sunday, Nadal took an excellent Zverev lob, one that appeared destined to get over his head, and knifed it away with a leaping skyhook overhead while looking in the other direction. That’s no baseline grinder’s shot; that’s a born tennis player’s shot, an artist’s shot.
Thirteen years after he first won in Rome, and a few weeks before his 32nd birthday, Nadal can still take the best shot from the new generation’s best player, and come up with something better.