An early crash, a near entire-field pit stop to change tyres… crazy stuff!
Before the French Open 2020 began last Sunday, there were a lot of doubts surrounding Rafael Nadal and his chances of defending the title this year at Paris.
With Roland Garros being scheduled in September-October this year as a result of the ongoing global pandemic, many speculated that the cold and wet conditions might hamper the chances of the defending champion at this year’s tournament.
To add to it, the tournament’s decision to switch to heavy Wilson balls that replaced the traditionally used Babalot balls that offered topspin wasn’t a welcome change either for the 34-year-old Spaniard, whose game predominantly revolves around heavy top-spun forehands. Following his shock straight-sets loss to Diego Schwartzman in the Rome Masters 1000 quarter-final, concerns about Nadal’s form coming into his most successful Grand Slam were raised.
But, as we enter into the deciding week of the French Open, all the doubts surrounding the world No.2 appear to be settled. The 12-time champion is up and running in supreme form after breezing through his first four contests with straight-sets victories. In his round-of-16 contest, the 19-time major champion made an easy meal of his young American opponent Sebastian Korda 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in just under two hours and has now set up a meeting against the Italian teen sensation Janik Sinner.
While the Spaniard will aim for a place in the semi-final at Roland Garros for a record 13th time in his career, a sense of dream come true awaits the Italian teen. Having secured a quarter-final berth at this year’s French Open, Sinner is emulating Nadal himself with a place in the last eight at Paris on his tournament debut.
The 19-year-old Italian appears to be on a roll after having defeated the two top 15 players in his maiden journey at this year’s French Open. Sinner sent David Goffin packing in his opening round contest and in his fourth-round contest, he overcame US Open runner-up Alexander Zverev in four sets.
This match will be their first-ever meeting on the ATP tour and the most important and challenging match for the 19-year-old Italian in his short career.
While Nadal has not dropped a single set so far, he hasn’t faced any tough competition and the upcoming contest against an in-form Sinner might be an opportunity for the Spaniard to fine-tune his game before he takes on the likes of Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic in the business end of the tournament.
On the other hand, Sinner, instead of getting bogged down by the grand occasion, would look forward to focus on his game, taking a lot of positives from his run so far at the French Open, aiming to play each point on its merit.
In his 14th quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros, can Nadal continue his serene run to stay in the hunt for his 20th major title or will Sinner turn out to be a giant killer to cause the biggest upset at this year’s French Open?
An interesting battle of generations awaits us as the 34-year old Nadal takes on the teenager Sinner in their upcoming quarter-final clash in Paris on Tuesday.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.