The ‘King of Clay’ started his Roland Garros campaign with a dominating win over Australian youngster Alexei Popyrin. Rafael Nadal defeated the young Aussie in straight sets 6-3, 62, 7-6 in the first round of the Grand Slam.
Nadal was at his dominating best in the first two sets but he had to break a lot of sweat in the third one. But in the end, his quality prevailed and he closed it out with aplomb.
After the Spaniard’s win, former No.1 Mats Wilander explained why it is so hard to face Nadal, especially when playing on a clay court. He also analysed how Nadal’s playing style made life difficult for Popyrin.
Speaking on Eurosport the 7-time Grand Slam winner highlighted how the bounce that Nadal generates makes life difficult for his opponents.
“Because the ball is bouncing so high and he loves that, we think he prefers it but let’s not forget what happened at Roland Garros last year,” Wilander said. “The ball bounces so high that Popyrin cannot control it at all when Rafa hits the return 2.5 metres over the net and has 4000 rpms on it. You could literally hit shots that clear the fence (court) if you mishit him a little bit so it is nearly impossible to control.”
Alex Corretja who is also a two time French Open finalist also dropped his comments on the game. Corretja highlighted how Nadal came out more aggressively after trailing 5-2 in the third set.
“In a way I think it’s (playing a longer third set) been very positive for Rafa, first two sets they were quite easy,” Corretja said. “And the third set the fact that Popyrin was leading 5-2 forced Rafa to react, to play more aggressive, more solid, he played with experience.
“When you are down against a young guy it’s always difficult to win the set but that’s what Rafa did perfectly. And I believe it was good for him to play a little bit longer than 3 2 or 1 (games).”
Corretja explained how Nadal’s ball bounces up a bit too high and creates trouble for players like Popyrin who like to hit the ball with a flatter trajectory.
“The thing is, the ball bounces so high up to you, and players like Popyrin like to hit the ball flat,” he added. “But if the ball bounces and it comes up to your head, it’s so difficult to control, and that’s why he shanked it with his racket and it’s not that easy to play with him,” he concluded.