Rafael Nadal starts his hunt for a 12th French Open title on Monday afternoon, taking on the qualifier Yannick Hanfmann for a spot in round two on Philipp Chatrier. Nadal will also face a winner in round two should he win – either Yannick Maden or Kimmer Coppejans.
Nadal looks to be peaking at the right time, having had some struggles over the early part of the clay swing. After losing in the Madrid semi finals, he came back in Rome with a stunning week. The Italian Open title was his first of the year and he made a statement of intent going into Paris, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final. While it went three sets, the Spaniard dominated for large parts of the match dropping just 1 game in the first and third sets combined.
Hanfmann was a surprise qualifier, having played little tennis in 2019. The big serving German broke into the top 100 last year thanks to some strong clay performances through the summer, picking up several Challenger titles along the way. Unsurprisingly, he will not have played on a stage this big before – with this match being just his second main tour match at a grand slam.
Nadal is pretty relaxed going into the tournament. “I feel myself playing well, being honest, and my goal is just to keep playing at that level, because there are always things that I can improve, small things.” he said. “But in general terms, is just about being healthy, main thing, and then just compete well and be fresh mentally and physically.”
Nadal will be able to ease himself into the tournament thanks to the generous draw and will likely be well rested for the tougher tests ahead.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets