It could hardly be more different this year. The withdrawal of Thanasi Kokkinakis in round two means that as he prepares to face Marin Cilic in the fourth round on Monday, Nadal has spent just four hours, seven minutes on court.
Compare that to his rivals, including Cilic, who has played eight hours, 26 minutes to this point, and Nadal is positively fresh. While it is possible to be under-cooked, and maybe not quite into the swing of things as players are when they play every other day at grand slams, at 33, and with his history of knee trouble, Nadal would surely prefer things this way, even if he won’t quite admit it.
“I will prefer to play the match"
“You never know what's better or worse, no,” the 12-time Roland Garros champion said. “From here, the main thing, I am happy to be where I am. I'm in the fourth round, and that's the main thing. Now is the moment to push, to make a step forward if I want to give me a chance to fight for the important things. That's what I going to try. That's all.”
Nadal said he would almost have preferred to have played Kokkinakis than not, especially as the Australian’s career has been hit hard by injuries. “Sorry for Thanasi in the second round,” he said. “Honestly tough for a player like him, that he's very young and he already had plenty of issues, physical issues. Tough, and I hope it's not too bad.
“But for me personally, in some way, I will prefer to play the match. In some way is true that you save energy. So you never know what's the best thing.”