“I just enjoy, and I just enjoyed all my tennis career to be where I am,” said the 13-time champion in his pre-tournament press conference. “I always feel very privileged and lucky to have the chance to enjoy all the experiences that I am enjoying and I am living because of this sport.
“Here I am in Roland Garros [for] another year. It is a place I know well. It is a place that I consider the most important one in my tennis career, without a doubt, and with a lot of positive memories.”
The legendary Spaniard’s performances in Paris are renowned, but Nadal acknowledges his unrivalled Roland Garros record is part of a wider success story on clay.
“I think I won 12 [titles] in Barcelona, 10 in Rome and 11 in Monte Carlo, so probably there is not a big difference between here and the rest of the places,” said the 36-time ATP Masters 1000 champion. “It’s true that here I won maybe a couple more than the rest of the places, but I think my level of tennis on clay has been high during a long period of time in my tennis career, without a doubt. That’s what the numbers say.”
Despite owning a 105-3 match record at Roland Garros and lifting a record 21st Grand Slam trophy at January’s Australian Open, Nadal is taking nothing for granted as he begins his bid for a record-extending 14th title on the Parisian clay. The Spaniard was beaten in the semi-finals by eventual champion Novak Djokovic in 2021, and he knows he must find his best form if he wants to taste success once again in the French capital.
“Unfortunately here I didn’t have the preparation that I would like…but in sport, things can change quick,” said Nadal. “The only thing that I can do is try to be ready if that change happens.
“Today looks difficult and [it] looks [like] there are players that are in better shape than me, without a doubt, but you never know what can happen in the next couple of days. The same happened in Australia, and I put myself in a position to have a chance. Here is no different. The only thing I have to do is believe in my chances, believe in my daily work, and then stay positive.
“The results say that I am not [the favourite], but it is something that never worried much to me. Probably when I was a favourite, I never considered myself the favourite.”
If Nadal is to add another successful chapter to his storied Roland Garros history, he must battle through a stacked top half of the draw that also includes World No. 1 Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev. Yet the Spaniard is not looking past his opening round clash with Australian Jordan Thompson.
“Mentally for me it doesn’t matter,” said Nadal. “In terms of tennis, of course in the top of the draw you see the names, of course it is a very tough one. But we are in a Grand Slam, and you never know what can happen.
“I am probably humble enough to just be focussed on my first match. It doesn’t matter if I know where I am exactly and what possible opponents I can have.
“Let’s see. The only thing that I would like is to be one of the players that you think can face these other great players.”
Djokovic, Nadal, Seeded To Meet In Roland Garros QFs
Nadal’s chronic foot injury flared up during his third-round defeat to Denis Shapovalov in Rome 10 days ago, but the 35-year-old says he is not unduly concerned about the issue impacting his Paris campaign.
“There is nothing to recover,” said Nadal. “What happened in Rome is something that happened very often in my practices. I was suffering after that for a couple of days, but I feel better. That’s why I’m here.
“I talked after the match very openly about what’s going on. But at the same time, I said it is something that can be better in the near future. And I hope that’s the case here.
“It is something that I live with every day, so is nothing new for me and is not a big surprise. I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros. If I don’t believe that this thing can happen, probably I would not be here.”