Rafael Nadal begins his chase for an extraordinary thirteenth French Open overall and fourth consecutive one on Monday, taking on Egor Gerasimov in his opening round match. The Spaniard is the heavy favourite for the tournament as he always will be but there are questions over how he will compete in the wet and cold conditions.
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Gerasimov plays a fairly aggressive style, serving big and coming to net quite often. It’s one that is more suited to the faster courts so there is no surprise that the Belarussian performs much better on hard courts than clay. His forays onto the surface have often ended badly with his few wins coming at either Challenger or qualifying level.
Nadal will come into Paris without a clay title after he failed to win in Rome, suffering a shock loss to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter finals. Questions remain over how the surface will help him after this loss, something that the defending champion himself recognises. “[The] situation is special. Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different [reasons]. The ball completely different. The ball is super slow, heavy. It’s very cold. Slow conditions.”
Gerasimov is the type of player that Nadal would tear apart during normal Roland Garros time and while this should remain the same, he may cause some issues for a short period if he is stellar at the net. Otherwise, it should provide a good warmup for Nadal to test the conditions against a fairly weak opponent. The first week should be fairly straight forward for the defending champion although round four against an inspired Fabio Fognini could be interesting.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets