Conditions at the later-than-usual French Open have already been a talking point among players, but a former Davis Cup champion believes Roland Garros specialist Rafael Nadal will have a ‘Herculean task’ ahead of him to win this year’s tournament.
Former Davis Cup doubles Paul McNamee believes the decision from French Open officials to switch from Babolat-manufactured balls to the Wilson variety will further inhibit Nadal’s attempts to claim a stunning 12th tournament victory.
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Less than ideal conditions, highlighted by significantly cooler playing conditions and persistent drizzle, have led to a number of players speaking out about the cumulative effects.
McNamee believes this, combined with the switch from the slightly faster Babolat to the slower Wilson balls, has the potential to sabotage Nadal’s efforts to claim a 13th French Open crown.
“With the latest info re Rafa’s and Thiem’s comments on the heavy balls, I’m not sure Rafa can win...a Herculean task,” McNamee posted on Twitter.
“if you reduce spin for Rafa it’s like you’re making John Isner only take 2nd serves.
“It’s a slippery slope that I’m shocked Roland Garros would do knowingly.
“I guarantee officials had absolutely no idea the change from Babolat balls to Wilson would produce heavier balls...they never saw it coming.
With the latest info re Rafa’s and Thiem’s comments on the heavy balls, I’m not sure Rafa can win ... a Herculean task ... if you reduce spin for Rafa it’s like you’re making @JohnIsner only take 2nd serves...it’s a slippery slope that I’m shocked @rolandgarros would do knowingly— 🎗️ Paul McNamee (@PaulFMcNamee) September 26, 2020
I guarantee officials at @rolandgarros had absolutely no idea the change from Babolat balls to Wilson would produce heavier balls... they never saw it coming. I suspect Tournament Director, Guy Forget, a good guy, is a little red faced right now— 🎗️ Paul McNamee (@PaulFMcNamee) September 26, 2020
“I suspect Tournament Director, Guy Forget, a good guy, is a little red faced right now.”
Nadal has indeed commented on the unusual conditions for the tournament, admitting they were the most difficult he had faced at a tournament he has boasted a near career-long stranglehold over.
Rafael Nadal admits French Open conditions are ‘challenging’
Nadal needs seven victories to bring up a century of wins at Roland Garros and collect a record-extending 13th title but the Spaniard knows he will face unprecedented tests over the next two weeks hitting an unfamiliar heavy ball in the biting cold.
"Conditions here probably are the most difficult for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different facts," Nadal, seeded second behind world number one Novak Djokovic, told reporters.
"I'm just staying positive knowing that the conditions are not perfect for me - maybe not perfect for others, either - and (accepting) that I am going to need my best version to have a chance."
Another major challenge for Nadal may be his lack of match practice, having played just three matches on clay since the 2019 French Open.
The Spaniard was far from his best in Rome as he suffered a shock quarter-final defeat to Diego Schwartzman last week, with chilly conditions again playing a crucial role.
The new retractable roof on Court Philippe Chatrier might offer some respite for Nadal if weather conditions turn out to be too bad.
The 34-year-old, however, would still start as an overwhelming favourite in any conditions against Gerasimov, who is making his main draw debut at Roland Garros.
"The preparations have been less than usual," Nadal said.
"But you know what? I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible, to practice with the right attitude, to give (myself) a chance. That's the main goal for me."
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