French Open: Nadal not worried about being in same half of draw as Djokovic and Federer

By Sports Desk May 28, 2021

Rafael Nadal is not worried about being in the same half of the draw as fellow legends Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at the French Open.

World number one Djokovic and Federer, eighth in the rankings, could meet at the quarter-final stage at Roland Garros, with a potential showdown with Nadal to come in the last four.

Defending champion Nadal says he is not looking beyond a first-round encounter with Alexei Popyrin in Paris, where he could move ahead of Federer by claiming a record 21st grand slam title.

The Spaniard said on Friday: "I see it as natural. One player is almost 40 [Federer], another is almost 35 [Nadal] and the other is 34 [Djokovic]. It seems logical that younger players climb in the rankings.

"Whenever that happens you have these consequences [with the seedings]. I see it as completely normal. I'm not worried about it. I have a lot of work in front of me to play a potential match versus Djokovic [in the semi-final].

"They would need to play each other and I have my own path. My path right now is Popyrin [in the first round] and that's where my mind is. My draw is hard enough to be thinking about anything else. I must continue my preparation, focus on my routines and keep advancing in the way we want."

Nadal on Thursday saw a statue of himself unveiled at Roland Garros, where has won 13 French Open titles and has a staggering record of 100 victories and two defeats.

He has won the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome and the Barcelona Open on clay this season but is braced for a tough start against 21-year-old Australian Popyrin.

Nadal said: "He's young, he has the power. He has big shots. As always, I need to be ready for it. I need to keep practising [during] the next couple of days and try to be in the best shape possible.

"I know every round is tough, I always respect every opponent. I respected everyone since the beginning of my career. And Popyrin is a dangerous one, so I need to play well and I'm looking forward to trying to make that happen.

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    World number one Novak Djokovic highlighted the joy of having fans back in full attendance after he collected his second consecutive straight sets win to advance to the third round of the French Open, beating Alex Molcan 6-2 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

    In his first-round fixture against Yoshihito Nishioka, Djokovic won 55 per cent of the total points in the first set, and increased that number in the second and third.

    This time, however, it was Molcan who was slowly improving as the match wore on, as Djokovic won 70 per cent of the first-set points, 57 per cent in the second and 53 per cent as he was taken to a tie-breaker in the third.

    Speaking to the media after his win, the Serbian star said he feels in good touch, and gave credit to his "tricky opponent".

    "I'm pleased with the way I'm feeling on the court [and] the way I’ve been striking the ball," he said.

    "I think today was also under challenging conditions and playing against a specialist on clay, someone that is a tricky opponent and coming off from the [Lyon] final last week. 

    "It was never going to be an easy match, but I thought I performed very well."

    He went on to discuss how energising it is to have a full crowd after there was a limited capacity for his 2021 triumph.

    "It's great to see the crowd back [and] the full capacity on all courts," he said. "Lots of young people, lots of kids, this is something that I really love to see.

    "It always gives you energy. For me at this stage of my career, a crowd and this energy of people coming to watch me play is one of the biggest reasons why I keep on competing [and] playing professional tennis."

    Djokovic will play Slovakian Aljaz Bedene in the third round, and despite being aware of his collision course with Rafael Nadal set for the quarter-finals, he said looking ahead that far serves little purpose.

    "You are aware what's going on with the other guys, at least in my case, and I know that everyone else is watching everybody else," he said.

    "[But] that cannot be dominating most of your time and energy that you invest in a day. 

    "So you are aware, but then of course it's really not up to you what they do. It's what you have to do, win matches and make good results."

  • French Open: How triumphant Alcaraz kept nerves at bay when facing match point French Open: How triumphant Alcaraz kept nerves at bay when facing match point

    Carlos Alcaraz kept the nerves at bay when facing match point against Albert Ramos-Vinolas by forgetting that he was playing at the French Open.

    The sixth seed saved match point in the fourth set and rallied from 0-3 in the fifth set to complete a 6-1 6-7 (7-9) 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 success on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

    Teenager Alcaraz enjoyed an emphatic start against his fellow Spaniard, but the experienced Ramos-Vinolas showed admirable poise to take the second and third sets in Paris on Wednesday.

    Ramos-Vinolas' ability to fight off break points – coupled with Alcaraz's lack of ruthlessness – gave him the upper hand, and he came within one point of knocking out the Madrid Open champion.

    But he crumbled on his own serve at 5-4 in the fourth, and from there Alcaraz's greater mobility and relentlessness when chasing seemingly lost causes had the 19-year-old looking the favourite.

    Eventually he came out on top after the longest match of his fledgling career at four hours and 34 minutes, setting up a third-round clash with Sebastian Korda.

    "You always have nerves in the match, but I think today I wasn't nervous," said Alcaraz.

    "Just maybe at the end of the fourth when I had the match point [to save]. I maybe thought I was one point away from losing, but just try not to think that I'm in the French Open.

    "I'm trying to enjoy the moment. I think that in the fourth set, and in the fifth, I smile with my team.

    "I enjoy the battles. I want to play big battles and tough battles against the best players in the world."

    Alcaraz was won four titles this year, including success at two ATP 1000 events, and feels at home playing on the show courts.

    "I'm still young, but I would say pretty experienced player now," said Alcaraz.

    "I feel comfortable playing in big stadiums, big matches, playing in grand slams. Physically. I'm strong. Mentally, I'm strong as well.

    "I think I'm ready to play these kinds of matches in these situations, these tournaments. I'm ready."

  • French Open: Nadal brushes off Moutet to seal 300th grand slam match win French Open: Nadal brushes off Moutet to seal 300th grand slam match win

    Rafael Nadal recorded his 300th grand slam match win by easing into the third round of the French Open, beating Corentin Moutet in straight sets.

    The 'King of Clay' is in search of a record-extending 22nd major title at Roland Garros, where he was dethroned by Novak Djokovic last year.

    On this evidence, Nadal is in the form to re-establish his dominion of the tournament, overcoming a spirited home hope, who enjoyed the benefit of vocal support from the crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Wednesday evening.

    Nadal will see room for improvement having failed to serve the match out in the third set, but a 6-3 6-1 6-4 win was never in doubt.

    The tone for a procession was established when Nadal raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set, and Moutet's dream of playing his idol soon appeared to be turning into a nightmare.

    Nadal won the second set in commanding fashion behind an excellent first serve, but found Moutet's resistance more stern in the third.

    That spirit was exemplified by Moutet breaking Nadal's serve with the Spaniard ahead 5-3. However, Nadal immediately responded in kind, dominating Moutet from the back of the court and wrapping up a landmark victory when the Frenchman sent a lob long at the end of an entertaining rally.

    Nadal will face Botic Van De Zandschulp in the third round.

     

    Data Slam: Nadal 107-3 opponents

    As well as being his 300th grand slam match win, Nadal's triumph was his 107th at Roland Garros. He has still only tasted defeat in Paris three times. The fifth seed won all 11 of his first-serve points in the second set of another impressive display.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Nadal – 27/22
    Moutet – 16/24

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Nadal – 1/2
    Moutet – 0/3

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Nadal – 7/12
    Moutet – 2/4

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