Rafael Nadal is back. After a 2016 that saw the nine-time French Open Champion fail to reach the quarterfinals in any Grand Slam for the first time in his career, he came roaring back this year.
Going to the finals in Melbourne and then in Indian Wells and Miami has the Roland Garros No. 4 seed coming in as the favorite.
“Since the beginning of the season I am happy the way that I played. I think I played well in almost every event that I was in,” Nadal said. “I played well on hard, then played great on clay.”
If Nadal can win in Paris over the next two weeks, then he will become the first player to a single major 10 times.
It will also put him three overall slams behind Roger Federer, the other comeback kid, who is sitting out this clay court season.
And why not Nadal? This is his home tournament and both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have drifted through this year with only Djokovic showing signs of of his old form in Rome two weeks ago.
Nadal is healthy. The wrist injury, which forced him to retire in the third-round last year, is fully healed and he seems hungry again.
But at 31, can he keep the rapid pace which he went though for the first five months of this season? After all, Federer has taken time, Nadal has not.
It showed in Rome, where he lost to Austrian Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals, snapping Nadal’s 17 match winning streak.
Maybe some time is a good thing.
“It’s not about being tired, it’s about that I had a lot of success on clay, winning three events of four that I played. That’s great for me,” Nadal said of his preparations. “It’s not only about Grand Slams, tennis. It’s obvious that here is probably the most important event in my career, without a doubt … But for me, it makes me happy to feel myself competitive and playing well in every event that I have played.
“In Rome I was a little bit tired mentally more than physically, because it is lot of days in a row with playing at a high intensity. I am very happy the way that I arrived here. Now I have to play well here.”
In Paris, he usually does. He has nine trophies to prove it.