Rafael Nadal begins his hunt for a record 11th French Open title on Monday evening, playing lucky loser Simone Bolelli. The World No.1 had been set to face Alexandr Dolgopolov in round one, only for the Ukranian to be one of many pre-tournament withdrawals.
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Bolelli was crushed on Friday in the final qualifying round by Santiago Giraldo, losing 0-6 2-6. He was fortunate enough to regain entry into the tournament after withdrawals, extending his streak of entries in Paris to 12 tournaments. However, calling the first of Nadal’s victims this fortnight lucky is probably pushing it. The Italian is another who is more prominent on the Challenger Tour but he did make the quarter finals at Estoril recently as a qualifier.
Nadal will be pleased to see the majority of his rivals in the bottom half of the draw but would have remained an overwhelming favourite whatever the state of the draw was. His Rome title was the eighth of his career, just another astonishing clay record in a career full of them. He won’t be taking it easy going into Paris though. “I’m feeling good,” said Nadal. “Of course, after a very tough start to the season with two injuries, I’ve managed to come back and play very well. I’ve played a lot of matches this season and have had good success. Every tournament is different, and here in Paris we’re trying to get in some solid practices so that I’m fit and ready for my first match. I want to be as competitive as I can be from the start.”
In the first week, it will just be a matter of how quick he wins and how few games he loses. The only issue for Nadal could be that the weather forecast is not promising over the next few days – something that may damage him as the last match on Philippe Chatrier on Monday.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets