Defending champion Rafael Nadal recently told reporters at Roland Garros that he is not playing well enough to win this year’s French Open title and that he is not pleased with some of his past appearances at the event, either. The world No. 1 has earned a spot in the quarterfinals and is seeking his sixth crown, but in order to do so, he must overcome his lack of confidence.
“Win this tournament again?” Nadal said. “No, seriously, I am not confident. I am not playing enough well to win this tournament at the day of today. That’s the (truth). The thing is you have to be realist, and today I’m not playing enough well to win this tournament. We will see after tomorrow if I am ready to play at this level. I going to try.”
The top seed added, “But I won four times already here, five times already here. I don’t have an obligation to win six. I going to try for sure, but…”
Nadal won his first French Open title in 2005 and enjoyed an undefeated run at Roland Garros until 2009, when he was upset in the fourth round by Robin Soderling, who will be his quarterfinal opponent this year. The Spaniard rebounded by claiming the title again in 2010, defeating Soderling in straight sets in the final round.
“In 2006 I think I didn’t play well during all the tournament; in 2007, normal; 2008, I played fantastic, but I played fantastic especially quarterfinals, semifinals, and final,” Nadal said. “2009 I think I played terrible all the tournament; 2010, so-so. Much better semifinals and finals than previous matches. Very so-so, in my opinion, no?”
Nadal also reflected on his journey through this year’s draw, beginning with a grueling five-set battle against John Isner in the first round. The Spaniard then earned three straight-set victories in a row, over Pablo Andujar in the second round, Antonio Veic in the third round, and Ivan Ljubicic in the fourth round.
“This year, especially the second match was especially bad,” Nadal said. “First match wasn’t that bad. Second match was bad level. Third match was positive. And today for moments was fine.”
Nadal will face Soderling in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The Spaniard holds a 5-2 career record against Soderling, although Soderling’s four-set upset in 2009 left a memorable mark on the tennis world and the Swede remains the only man to have defeated Nadal at Roland Garros.
When told that Nadal does not think he has been playing well this year, Soderling laughed and replied, “I hope not.”
“No, seriously, he’s a great player,” Soderling added. “I think everybody knows what he can do. He won here so many times. Every match is different. It doesn’t matter how you got to the quarters, as long as you’re there.”
If Nadal is triumphant in his quarterfinal match, he would face one of Juan Ignacio Chela, No. 4 seed Andy Murray, or No. 15 seed Viktor Troicki in the semifinals before potentially meeting world No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the final round.
Djokovic earned his semifinal berth on Monday when quarterfinal opponent Fabio Fognini withdrew due to a leg injury, and some worry that the four-day break from competition could disrupt the Serb’s rhythm. Nadal, however, is not one of them.
“After don’t lose a match during all the year with, I don’t know, 40-something straight victories, you think he’s out of rhythm now?” Nadal said of his undefeated rival.
Do you agree with Nadal? What must he do to raise his level of playing? Is Djokovic unstoppable?
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