Facing Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is still the stiffest task in tennis

Rafael Nadal plays a shot

Norway’s Casper Ruud believes that 14-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal is still a nightmare to face at Roland Garros.

Nadal steamrolled to the 2022 title with no feeling in one foot and has a 97 percent win rate at Roland Garros.

Ruud has suggested that facing Nadal at Roland Garros is a task that is taxing both physically and mentally.

“If you want to beat Rafa at Roland-Garros, when you are going out to the match, you are thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to have to play the best match of my life for at least four-and-a-half hours because even though I’m playing great, he will play unbelievable back’,” Ruud said on the latest episode of Ruud Talk.

“If I play well, he [Nadal] plays well, so it’s going to be a long match. Not many players are prepared to do that I think and that’s why you have seen some of the clay court players be so successful on clay.”

On any clay and indeed on most surfaces for most players, Nadal is an imposing foe but his dominance at Roland Garros is such that Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic won’t get credit for how good they were on the surface having been consistently eclipsed by the Spaniard.

“Novak and Roger, they are probably the second-best ever clay-court players,” he added. “It’s just that it’s never really talked about because Rafa has all these records, so it’s tough.

“But anytime you’re playing one of these great guys or great players, it’s tough because you feel like it could be dependent on them a little bit more, especially on clay where the ball is a little slower and they have even more time to get the shots.

“You feel like maybe if you play Rafa on grass or whatever, Rafa has obviously won Wimbledon twice, so he is really good on grass, but you feel like, you can at least go out there and smack some winners and make him uncomfortable.

“On clay, you can’t really do that because he has the time to set up his shots, he has the time to play good defence.

“If he’s on it and he’s playing well, there is really not much you can do, unless you are able to match his game, which very few people in the world can do on clay.”

Rafael Nadal has not laid out a timeline for his return to action from injury, and he may play very little ahead of the 2023 French Open.

He is expected to turn out at the Madrid Masters but might not be fit for the Barcelona stop which follows next week’s Monte Carlo Masters.

READ MORE: Casper Ruud says that clay lovers are in the minority