June 12, 2021

At Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal or the elixir of immortality

His opponents already strongly assumed it but there is no longer any doubt: Rafael Nadal is immortal at Roland Garros. The Spaniard, who faces Thursday, June 3, his 35th birthday, Frenchman Richard Gasquet, is once again the best candidate for his succession. The story is not over yet that the most successful player at Porte d’Auteuil (thirteen titles) already has his statue there, inaugurated a few days ago near the brand new main entrance to the Parisian enclosure.

A stainless steel sculpture 3 m high and almost 5 m wide, the work of the Spanish artist Jordi Díez Fernandez, representing the Mallorcan and his legendary rage to win in an aerial posture. “Sooner or later, this statue would come back to him and it will still be there long after us”, the tournament director, Guy Forget, justified with a smile. A statufied player during his lifetime, even Roger Federer does not (yet) have this privilege, unlike footballers Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Lionel Messi.

Read also Roland-Garros: Gasquet bites Gaston and prepares to find Nadal

Already the holder of the most salient records at Porte d’Auteuil, Rafael Nadal still has two to beat in his fortress: to become the oldest winner of the tournament (his compatriot Andrés Gimeno was 34 years and 10 months old, in 1972) but also to establish the record for the duration between two titles (it is tied with the Australian Ken Rosewall, winner fifteen years apart, between 1953 and 1968).

Above all, he could become in case of victory, Sunday, June 13, the only master of world tennis with a 21e Grand Slam, he who now shares the record with Roger Federer.

“It’s his court, it will always be his court”

Its first victim of the 2021 vintage, Alexei Popyrin (63e world), has made itself felt. “This is his short. It will always be his short ”, sighed the Australian, defeated 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 Tuesday 1is June on the Philippe-Chatrier court, after wasting two balls in the third set.

But the protégé of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, still too fiery at the height of his 23 years despite a talent that is obvious, learned that beating Nadal at Roland Garros is first of all to be convinced that we are capable to do. Out of 103 matches, only two men managed to make him abdicate: Robin Söderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015.

For the first time in his career, the draw mischievously placed the Spaniard in the same part of the table as the Serbian and his other biggest rival, Federer. He could cross one or the other in the semi-finals.

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