Even with 13 titles, 100 wins and a current 30-match win streak, no match is a given for Rafael Nadal at the French Open.
The 34-year-old opens his bid for a 14th trophy either Monday or Tuesday in Paris against Alexei Popyrin. Nadal just beat Popyrin in Madrid earlier this month with ease 6-3, 6-3, but knows the danger the Australian presents.
“He’s young, he has the power,” Nadal said. “He has big shots. As always, no, I need to be ready for it. I need to keep practicing the next couple of days, try to be in the best shape possible for the beginning. But I know every round is tough, I respect every opponent always. I respected everyone since the beginning of my career. And Popyrin is a dangerous one, no?
“So I need to play well and I’m looking forward to trying to make that happen.”
The 21-year-old Popyrin stands 6-foot-5 and averages over nine aces/match. This year, Popyrin has wins over Jannik Sinner, Marin Cilic, Reilly Opelka and David Goffin. But he’s just 1-7 career against Top 10 players and that lone win can via retirement against Dominic Thiem at the 2019 Australian Open.
Nadal is a perfect 16-0 in the French Open first round. He’s only lost three sets in his opening match there.
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