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Nadal : “People feel like having heavier balls plays for me, but it’s the contrary”

Conditions were rough for Rafael Nadal — and for Alexander Zverev — in the semi-finals on Friday. More of the same could be in store for the final considering Sunday’s forecast.

Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2022 Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2022 © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Conditions have not exactly been ideal for Rafael Nadal throughout this fortnight at Roland-Garros.

The 36-year-old played two of the 10 night-session matches, first against Corentin Moutet in round two and more notably against Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals on Tuesday. He also faced Alexander Zverev under a closed roof in the semis on Friday, resulting in painfully slow, heavy conditions. In fact, during the second set against Zverev the Spaniard stopped putting a second ball in his pocket because his shorts were so wet — instead taking a ball from a ballboy whenever he missed a first serve.

Nadal ended up getting past Zverev via retirement while leading by one set. After three hours and 13 minutes, they had not even completed two full sets. It wasn’t necessarily a poor performance by Nadal, but the 13-time French Open champion was nowhere near his best.

Heavy conditions better for my people who play flat.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal admitted he had struggled with the heavy conditions under the roof, which was closed throughout.

“Physically I’m OK,” he said following the semi-final. “Today the conditions were super heavy, humid, I hadn’t experienced them for a long time. The ball was humid, it makes things harder after all the efforts during the tournament. Some balls absorb more or less the humidity, here the ball is big so it’s amplifying the effect of the humidity and the usual spin I can have in my ball doesn’t produce the same effect. It’s another style I have to find. Each shot costs much more than usual. If I was suffering, it’s not because of the physical but because of the conditions.

“When the ball is loud, you suffer more physically anyway. From outside, people feel like having heavier balls plays in favour of players like me. It’s the contrary, it’s better for people who play flat that have more direct shots. For a simple reason: when you use spin, the ball is on the strings longer, you have a brush sensation, and you can give the effect to the ball. When conditions are heavy, the ball goes in the racquet direct, it’s much more convenient for the opponent.

“I find solutions anyway, even if the player in front of me was spectacular.”

Roof could be closed again in final against Ruud

There is a 65 percent chance of rain in Paris on Sunday, so the final between Nadal and Casper Ruud could be played under a closed roof. Rain could, however, be out of the way by early afternoon (the match is schedule for 3:00 pm local time.

Nadal has to hope the latter scenario is the one that plays out, although he is obviously a massive favorite to win regardless of the conditions.

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