For the record, Nadal’s only other loss on the clay-court swing came against Alexander Zverev on a speedier court at altitude in Madrid. He bagged titles in Barcelona and Rome either side of that – saving a championship point against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the prior and a three-set triumph over his greatest rival, Novak Djokovic, in the latter.
“We all know Rafa is the huge favourite,” two-time Roland-Garros champion and Tennis Channel analyst Jim Courier said on Wednesday.
“I think those of us who were lucky enough to see Novak take him down at Roland Garros years back recognised that if they both play at their best, Novak has a chance tactically and technically to take him out. It's not easy. It's obviously been incredibly difficult to do so… Of course, Rafa has every right to be the most optimistic of all, even though he'll doubt it more than anybody, ironically.”
Record at RG: 100-2 (champion 2005-2008, 2010-2014, 2017-2020)
Record in 2021: 18-3, 2 titles
Clay record in 2021: 14-2
Titles won on clay: 62