Rafael Nadal did not exactly shine on his first outing on the beloved clay, having already been eliminated in the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo. The Spanish phenomenon, who had been on hiatus for about two months due to a back injury that affected his start to the season, surrendered in three sets to a wild Andrey Rublev.
The former world number 1 provided a performance well below his usual standards, especially on serve, as he himself admitted at a press conference after the match. The 34-year-old from Manacor is aiming to be 100% fit in time for Roland Garros, where he will be on the hunt for his 14th career title.
A possible triumph in the French capital would also allow him to detach Roger Federer for the first time in the all-time Grand Slam standings. His approach to the Parisian Grand Slam passes through Barcelona, a tournament he has already taken home on 11 occasions.
Interviewed by ‘Metro’ in recent days, the Majorcan explained how the Big 3 (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic) are finding it increasingly difficult to stem the inspiration of the Next Gen.
Nadal on Next Gen-
“For us, it’s not very important,” Rafael Nadal said before laughing.
“Well no, I’m just joking. That’s normal. We are getting old. It’s true. It’s normal the young generation are coming and it’s true that now they are a great new generation of great tennis players. It’s super interesting now.”
When probed about which young players were the best of the bunch, Rafael Nadal named Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. “Lots of players, young, with power, potential – let’s see what’s going on in the next couple of years,” Nadal said.
“The player who will be able to improve the most will be the player who has better chances to have better success.” Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal has shared rivalries with many top athletes of the game. Besides Roger Federer, the Spaniard has played many memorable matches against Serbian ace Novak Djokovic.
With time gone by, Djokovic now has a better head-to-head record against Rafa and Roger. The Spaniard spoke on the matter and stated,
“I never get – I mean, Novak is more obsessed about this, more focused. Not in a negative way.
“No, he’s more focused on just these things and it means a lot to him all of this stuff. Like he’s always saying and talking about these records and well done for him… but it’s not my approach to my tennis career.”