Rafael Nadal has declared that he is ‘not worried’ about himself, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer being named in the same half of the French Open draw ahead of this year’s tournament at Roland Garros. The Spaniard will kick off his title defence against Alexei Popyrin on Sunday as he seeks a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam triumph with yet another successful campaign in Paris.
Nadal has remarkably won the French Open on no less than 13 previous occasions, earning himself a formidable reputation as the king of clay in the process.
He is the hot favourite going into this year’s edition despite Thursday’s draw that saw the ‘Big Three’ of men’s tennis grouped together for the first time in Grand Slam history.
It seems likely that Nadal will meet Djokovic at the semi-final stage if the Serb overcomes Federer in a possible last eight clash.
Meanwhile, the lopsided nature of the draw has opened up a potential spot in the final for in-form Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas and two-time Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem.
Speaking on Friday, Nadal has claimed that the possibility of facing Djokovic or Federer in the semi-finals is no cause for concern, stressing that he is entirely focused on his own game and breaking even more records over the coming fortnight.
“I see it as natural,” said the Spaniard, giving his initial reaction to the draw.
“One player is almost 40 [Federer], another is almost 35 [Nadal] and the other is 34 [Djokovic]. It seems logical that younger players climb in the rankings.
“Whenever that happens you have these consequences. I see it as completely normal. I’m not worried about it.
“I have a lot of work in front of me to play a potential match versus Djokovic. They [Djokovic and Federer] would need to play each other and I have my own path.
“My path right now is Popyrin and that’s where my mind is. My draw is hard enough to be thinking about anything else.
“I must continue my preparation, focus on my routines and keep advancing in the way we want.”
Nadal defeated his upcoming first-round opponent Popyrin at the Madrid Open earlier this month, claiming the spoils in straight sets before he was knocked out in the quarter-finals by eventual champion Alexander Zverev.
The 34-year-old admitted that he is expecting a trickier test against the Australian hopeful this time around, highlighting the latter’s hard-hitting style of play and suggesting that he will need to perform at his peak in order to progress.
“He’s young, he has the power,” added Nadal. “He has big shots. As always, I need to be ready for it.
“I need to keep practising [over] the next couple of days, try to be in the best shape possible. I know every round is tough, I always respect every opponent.
“I respected everyone since the beginning of my career. And Popyrin is a dangerous one, so I need to play well and I’m looking forward to trying to make that happen.”
Nadal has endured a mixed clay-court swing thus far, tasting defeat in Monte-Carlo and Madrid but winning both ATP tournaments in Barcelona and Rome.
However, he has only lost two matches at the French Open since making his Roland Garros debut in 2005, and looks to have every chance of extending his impressive winning record this year.