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Alix Ramsay Shares Her Views On RAFA Nadal And Novak Djokovic • Full Report On Tennis From Paris 2019

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays Hubert Hurkacz of Poland during their men?s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2019. EPA-EFE/JULIEN DE ROSA
Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays Hubert Hurkacz of Poland during their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2019. EPA-EFE/JULIEN DE ROSA

 

 

Nadal and Djokovic set out their stalls at Roland Garros

 

Usually at this time of year, Rafa Nadal walks into Roland Garros dragging a kitbag full of trophies behind him. His clay court journey to Paris will have taken him to the winner’s podium in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome and only question on everyone’s lips would be not who could stop him winning the French Open but, rather who could slow him down.

 

Now, this is not to say that Rafa is a rank outsider this season – far from it – but his preparations for the slam he has won 11 times already have not been perfect this time. He did win in Rome – and beat Novak Djokovic to do so – but that is all the silverware he managed to collect.

 

As he stuttered around the historic cities of Europe, Uncle Toni was brought of retirement to help out for a few days here and there. But until Rafa got to Rome, nothing was falling into place. No matter: Raf had been here before.

 

He knew better than any man who had ever played the sport exactly what it took to win at Roland Garros. He had a plan. Even when he was losing to Dominic Thiem, the man he beat in last year’s Roland Garros final, in the Barcelona semi-final, he had a plan. And having eased himself into the second round of the French Open with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 win over Yannick Hanfmann of Germany, it looked like his plan was working.

 

“It’s very difficult to be convinced that you’re OK,” Nadal said of his problems earlier on the clay. “I don’t know if many people are convinced about anything in this life. I think when you’re convinced about something, you’re very arrogant, because most of the time you can hope that something is going to happen, and have the desire for something to happen. But to be convinced? I’m almost convinced about nothing in this world.

 

Rafael Nadal of Spain plays Yannick Hanfmann of Germany during their men?s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

Rafael Nadal of Spain plays Yannick Hanfmann of Germany during their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

“The only thing I was convinced about is that I wanted to work, to try and arrive at the event in a good shape, whatever it was. Whether it was Madrid, Rome, or here now.

 

“I could have made a mistake about my personal feelings, but I thought I had a good match [against Thiem] and that match was a good base for the future. It was confirmed, and I have been able to make headway day after day and increase my trust in my body.

 

“I was able to trust my tennis more and more – and all this comes out translating into victories, which is when you make the difference.”

 

Novak Djokovic is hoping to make a difference in the coming two weeks, too. If he can find a way to win his second French Open trophy, he will complete his second non-calendar year Grand Slam. Only Rod Laver – who won two Grand Slams proper – has held all four titles twice in a career so there is a lot riding on the next six matches for Djoko.

 

His campaign began with a bang – a hell of a bang – in the gym. Warming up with the medicine ball, he clearly did not know his own strength and managed to leave a large and gaping hole in the wooden flooring. He did pretty much the same to Hubert Hurkacz on Monday, walloping the poor Pole 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

 

“I was just doing my pretraining session warmup routine,” Djokovic said, explaining how he broke the gym, “and I took the medicine ball and I just swing with the ball quite hard in front of me, kind of to warm up upper body, and after a second throw, I heard a crack. The wooden floor completely collapsed underneath.

 

“They fixed it in less than a day. Next day it wasn’t there. But next day I was doing it on a concrete wall and concrete steps. I learned my lesson.”

 

As for his expectations this year, Djokovic knows what is required if he is to achieve his dream.

 

“I put myself in a situation where I can actually make history of tennis again,” he said, “and obviously I have very high ambitions for this tournament. It’s not a secret.

 

“But at the same time, it’s not the first time that I’m facing these kind of circumstances. It’s not the first grand slam in my career. I have played so many. I know it’s two weeks potentially long, and I just need to be in my lockdown, so to say, mentally, and just do things that have worked for me in the past.”

 

Henri Laakosen will be the next man to feel the full force of Djokovic in lockdown in the second round.

 

But the award for the best press conference of the day goes to Daniil Medvedev. For a few minutes shy of four hours Medvedev and Pierre-Hugues Herbert fought and chased and retrieved. And for the first of those hours, Medvedev was winning. But then Herbert worked his way back into contention and, eventually, into the second round 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. It was left to Medvedev to explain what went wrong in the interview room. At this point, we shall break with tradition and bring you the Russian’s interview in full:

 

“THE MODERATOR: Questions in English, please.

Q. It’s never easy to lose a match when you are two sets Love, but what went wrong for you in this match

DANIIL MEDVEDEV: He started playing better after two sets. That was the case.”

 

And with those 11 well-chosen words, Daniil Medvedev left the building. That was all, folks; that was all.

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