PARIS (Reuters) – If you are not prepared to suffer, then don’t expect to contest the French Open final – that seems to be the motto of 12-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal.
Winning six successive matches in straight sets to reach the French Open final for a 13th time might have given the impression that Nadal has not exactly had to suffer too much hardship at Roland Garros this year.
But the Spaniard, who was out of competitive action for over six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was at pains to point out that not everything was as easy as it looks.
“It’s important to go through all the process,” the 34-year-old, who is in pursuit of a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title, told reporters
“You have to suffer. You can’t pretend to be in a final of Roland Garros without suffering. That’s what happened there.”
Nadal had been beaten in two sets by Diego Schwartzman at the Italian Open last month, but there was little chance of a repeat at the French Open on Friday.
Since 2005, only two men have beaten Nadal at Roland Garros and toppling the world number two in a best-of-five-set match on red dirt remains the ultimate challenge in tennis.
While the defeat to Schwartzman in the Rome quarter-finals might have exposed some rust in Nadal’s armour after such a long hiatus, by the time he faced the Argentine again on Friday, he was battle ready.
Romping through to the last four in Paris by spending a total of only 10 hours on court meant the Spaniard was once again feeling invincible on his favourite surface.
“It’s unusual. I didn’t play much tennis for the last six months. To believe that you can keep doing this kind of stuff, you need to win matches, you need to go through this process again,” the 12-time French Open champion said after his 6-3 6-3 7-6(0) win over Schwartzman.
“Winning these kind of matches, going through these moments with playing that aggressive with the forehand, knowing that you can have success like this, make me feel positive and make me feel confident. That helps, of course, for the future.”
To add to Nadal’s confidence, the weather forecast for Sunday is not too bad with mild conditions expected in Paris. They should be similar to the conditions the players experienced on Friday with a temperature of 16 degrees Celsius and a few sunny spells.
“The conditions out there today have been one of the best of the tournament, no?,” said Nadal.
“It was 16 degrees, not much wind. I think the feeling is better.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)