Before his challenge for a 13th Roland Garros title, Rafael Nadal has panned the autumn conditions in Paris, describing them as “a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament”.
Postponed from May to September, temperatures at Roland Garros this year have fallen as low as nine degrees celsius with rain and storms. The weather presents a challenge for Nadal, who adores the dry, fast clay court summer.
“Situation is special,” said Nadal. “Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different facts. Ball completely different. Ball is super slow, heavy. It’s very cold. Slow conditions.”
Nadal was also unhappy with Roland Garros’s decision to change its official ball from Babolat to a new “super heavy” Wilson ball. The conditions and ball should lead to a lower, less lively bounce, allowing opponents to counter his heavy topspin more easily.
“In Mallorca with warm conditions, the ball was very slow, I think it is not a good ball to play with on clay, honestly. That is my personal opinion. It is not the right ball to play on clay court. [And] with these conditions, it makes things tougher, no? But I knew before I arrived here. No problem at all. Just accept the challenge.”
Nadal’s countryman, Fernando Verdasco, revealed on Friday night that he was withdrawn from Roland Garros after testing positive for coronavirus upon arrival in Paris.
In a statement, the former world No 7 said that he had contracted coronavirus in August before returning to the tour after a series of negative tests. He tested positive again in Paris and was withdrawn from the tournament without the opportunity to conduct another test. He says that he has since tested negative again.
“I want to communicate my total frustration and indignation with the Roland Garros organisation for withdrawing my right to participate in this important event without giving me the opportunity to make another test to confirm that the first result could be an error,” wrote Verdasco.
Earlier, the organisers of Roland Garros said they were in a “phase of regret” being forced to host only 1,000 spectators per day as coronavirus cases continue to reach record highs in France.
Bernard Giudicelli, president of the Fédération Française de Tennis, had previously vowed to “at least show the world we are fighting against this coronavirus” by presenting a crowd. However, the tournament’s initial boast of 20,000 spectators eventually fell to 11,500 and then 5,000 one week ago.
After France banned gatherings of more than 1,000 this week, the tournament begrudgingly confirmed on Friday that it would be limited to that number of daily spectators.
“The 5,000 spectators in the stadium were already, in our eyes, a minimum mark. However, the government authorities decided otherwise and we can only regret this new constraint,” said Giudicelli.