Many players who have faced Rafael Nadal over the years have stressed that beating him at the French Open is one of the hardest things in tennis. Top tennis coach Paul Annacone feels it is in fact the hardest thing in all sports and even presented an upbeat assessment of the 13-time champion’s chances at the 2022 French Open.
Annacone tasted great success as coach of the likes of Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, winning numerous big titles with the two legends. The American feels Nadal is still the man to beat a few days later in Paris, despite his ongoing injury issues.
Speaking on a recent podcast hosted by Tennis Channel, Annacone heaped immense praise on the Spaniard.
“The hardest thing in sports is beating Rafa Nadal in 3 out of 5 sets on clay,” said Annacone. “I still think that’s the most difficult thing to do.”
He did admit that Nadal’s claycourt season hasn’t been ideal at all. However, the 59-year-old feels that the Spaniard’s ability to win matches even when he is not playing at his best could keep him going at the French Open. He also expects Nadal to keep getting better as the tournament progresses.
“Rafa is such a creature of habit and he loves to have a lot of match wins under his belt,” Annacone expressed. “He started the year off meteorically and of course with the setback of the cracked rib, he hasn’t been able to play the schedule that he wants.
“Rafa is so great, he can play his way into form at Roland Garros,” he added. “He can win a lot of matches at way below sub-par for him and then he’ll get better as the tournament goes on. I’m really not worried. I know it’s not what he prefers but, look, the guy hasn ‘t won 13 Roland Garros for no reason. “
Annacone also reserved high admiration for Rafael Nadal’s work ethic. He has seen him perform closely over the years and included the 21-time Major champion among some of the best sportspeople of all-time.
“There’s no way you can not say that he (Rafael Nadal) is not with the best in every sport that’s ever played,” the former World No. 12 continued. “I’ve never seen anyone that has tried harder for every shot that they’ve hit. You can just walk by or turn on the TV and watch him practice, and it’s the same thing. Every ball is hit like his life depends on it. “
Annacone, a former professional player himself, also had his share of injuries, with one of them being a rib injury similar to what Nadal suffered just recently. He shed some light on how he believes the rib injury would have affected the Spaniard.
“I think it’s so hard to swing,” Annacone explained. “I think he was in a lot of pain trying to swing because that’s a lot of stress, particularly the way he swings at it. That’s a lot of energy going through an area that’s already compromised.”
What is the status of Rafael Nadal’s latest foot injury?
The former World No. 1 also said that he will now wait and watch as to how his left foot feels in the build-up to the French Open.