Nadal, who turns 31 next month, surely has a great deal of confidence having won 3 titles back-to-back this season – Monte Carlo Masters, Barcelona Open and the Madrid Open. The Spaniard seems to have taken his game to another level, playing some of the best tennis in a while considering that his losing streak against Novak Djokovic also ended in Madrid few weeks back. The World No.4 comes into the tournament with an incredible 17-1 win-loss record on the dirt this year with Dominic Thiem halting his run at the Rome Masters quarter-finals.
The Rome defeat however does not worry Nadal. “In Rome I was a little bit tired mentally more than physically, because it was a lot of days in a row playing at high intensity,” he said.
On the contrary, one of the “home favorites” Benoit Paire has displayed nothing but inconsistency in his game in the recent past, having lost five of his last eight matches. He hasn’t had any real success since he appeared at the Open Sud de France semi-finals. The World No.45 has lost quite a bit in terms of standings but he’s no “pushover” as he’s won at least one match in each of his last five appearances at Rolland Garros. This year he holds a 17-15 record so far with his biggest victories against Pablo Carreno Busta and Stan Wawrinka in Madrid. In his career, so far, he has scored six wins against top-10 players.
Even Rafa, whose last title at Paris came in 2014, is wary of the threat posed by Paire. “He is not an opponent you want to play against in the first round,” said Nadal. “A player with big talent. Great serve, great hands. Fantastic backhand, no? He is a dangerous opponent. Yeah, that’s it. I need to play my best.”
Nadal and Paire have played twice in the past, that too on clay, with Rafa emerging victorious in straight sets at both their meetings.
Given all this, the “talented but unpredictable” Benoit would be looking to score his first victory against Nadal, who will aim to get one step closer to that “La Decima” at his favorite Grand Slam.
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