Rafael Nadal is the Man of Mystery at the French Open.

In October 2020, as the pandemic forced the French Tennis Federation to move the tournament from late spring to early fall, Nadal made it through the tournament without dropping a set. He embarrass Djokovic (6-0, 6-2, 7-5) in the final.

But nine months later, Djokovic took revenge by breaking Nadal’s mind and body in an epic four-set semi-final on his way to the championship. Nadal missed most of the rest of the season due to Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, a degenerative foot condition he has suffered from since childhood. For months during the fall, Nadal wondered if he could play again.

Then the pain became tolerable. And after just a few weeks of preparation and a single tournament, Nadal won the Australian Open in January to show the world once again that counting him out is a terrible idea. However, recently, the pain has come again, and the top players can feel that the French Open in 2022 felt different from other players in recent memories.

“The men’s team is very competitive,” said Stefanos Tsicipas of Greece, who lost the final after winning the first two sets to Djokovic last year. “It’s definitely something I haven’t seen in a long time.”

The 23-year-old Tsitsipas spoke of “a bit young and very hungry” fighters like himself, who are desperately starting a Grand Slam win, and the rising and dangerous 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz from Spain. “He seems to play tennis because he enjoys sports,” Tsitsipas said of the young Spaniard. But he began these comments by jokingly referring to Nadal who won the French Open “at least 28 times”. That’s how big his presence is on this earth.

Nadal tried to underestimate his performance at Roland Garros on Friday.

He has collected dozens of championships on red soil across Europe, winning 12 in Barcelona, ​​10 in Rome and 11 in Monte Carlo. So, in Roland Garros, thirteen makes sense, he suggests. (No, it’s not. It’s ridiculous.)

He also said that the results of the past two months are more important than the titles won long ago. I couldn’t sleep with a rib injury, and swinging the racquet with the intense torque, especially on everyday shots, was much less. He said other people did much better, much better.

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