Former world No. 6 Gilles Simon has tried to explain what makes Spanish tennis superstar Rafael Nadal so superior on clay.
Nadal, 34, won a record 13th French Open title last year after beating Novak Djokovic in three sets in the final.
Simon, 36, has nine career meetings against Nadal and three of those nine clashes were played on clay.
Simon’s lone win over Nadal came on the clay courts of the Madrid Masters in 2008.
„That’s the impression I get, when I see Rafa, for example,“ Simon said on Tennis Majors. „Rafa starts from what works when things aren’t going well: ‘I am going to put a lot of intensity in my forehand range on the backhand side of the other. I’m going to be around a lot by putting energy into it. And from there I’m going to… I’m validating that first, that’s my thing.'“ Simon says Nadal uses that tactic when his head is turned against the wall
„If his life depends on one point, he is going to play this. That’s what’s so special about him, and then you see the construction. Then he will play longer, and sometimes he comes forward, etc. Let’s just approach it this way, it would be easier,“ Simon added.
Meanwhile, world No. 3 Dominic Thiem – who was beaten by Nadal in back-to-back finals in 2018 and 2019 – hopes to beat the Spaniard at Roland Garros this year and win the title.
„My biggest goal is to win Roland Garros,“ Thiem said. I like that tournament the most, and the conditions suit my game. I played the junior final in 2011, and I have wanted to win it ever since. Rafael Nadal is in the league of his own at Roland Garros; I have never managed to beat him there. I’m confident against him at other tournaments, but it becomes extra tough on Court Philippe-Chatrier; it’s one of our sport’s toughest challenges. He lost twice in 16 years in Paris; that’s insane. Rafa should be the favorite in Paris for another year or two, but I will try to beat his this season.“