Rafael Nadal is “not worried” about landing in the same half of the French Open draw as his rivals World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. The King of Clay, who will be bidding to capture a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Roland Garros, thinks the draw is “completely normal”. “I see it as natural. One player is almost 40 [Federer], another is almost 35 [Nadal] and the other is 34 [Djokovic]. It seems logical that younger players [will] climb in the [FedEx ATP] Rankings,” he added.
“Whenever that happens you have these consequences [with the seedings]. I see it as completely normal. I’m not worried about it. I have a lot of work in front of me to play a potential match versus Djokovic [in the semi-final]. They would need to play each other and I have my own path. My path right now is [Alexei] Popyrin [in the first round] and that’s where my mind is. My draw is hard enough to be thinking about anything else. I must continue my preparation, focus on my routines and keep advancing in the way we want.”
In the Mutua Madrid Open recently, the 34-year-old Spaniard had defeated Popyrin 6-3, 6-3 in third round. “He’s young, he has the power,” said Nadal. “He has big shots. As always, I need to be ready for it. I need to keep practising [over] the next couple of days [and] try to be in the best shape possible.
“I know every round is tough, I always respect every opponent. I respected everyone since the beginning of my career. And Popyrin is a dangerous one, so I need to play well and I’m looking forward to trying to make that happen.”
Nadal comes into the clay-court Grand Slam, seeking a 14th title in Paris. A victory in French Open will help him top the all-time Grand Slam list. On Thursday, Nadal unveiled a statue of himself at Roland Garros alongside French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moretton, Tournament Director Guy Forget and Jordi Diez Fernandez, the statue’s sculptor.
“The statue is spectacular,” added Nadal. “I think it is very real. If you haven’t seen it live, if you stay close you’ll notice. It’s a clean, modern statue and I’m very pleased. It’s really difficult to build a statue with that material and be so real as this one is.
“It means a lot. Having a statue within such a special place for our sport, in a place that is very special for me is something unique. Not being French, I can only say thanks to the FFT, to the former President who promoted it and the current President who continued with the project.”