French Open

Steel statue unveiled at Roland Garros to pay tribute to clay king Nadal

Rafael Nadal, who was at the unveiling of his statue at the Roland Garros stadium, is the most successful player at the 130-year-old tournament with 13 men's singles titles.
Rafael Nadal, who was at the unveiling of his statue at the Roland Garros stadium, is the most successful player at the 130-year-old tournament with 13 men's singles titles. © Christophe Guibbaud/FFT).

Fittingly it was a Spaniard who sculpted the statue of Rafael Nadal which was unveiled on Thursday at the Roland Garros stadium.

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Jordi Díez Fernandez’s steel monument to the winner of 13 French Open men’s singles title stands three metres tall.

It is nearly five metres wide and two metres deep - dimensions metaphysically comprehensible to the scores of players Nadal has vanquished while amassing the record number of crowns since 2005.

Roland Garros is something so special for me,” said the 34-year-old after the structure was inaugurated at a new public entrance to the venue on the western fringes of Paris. “It’s the most important tournament of my career.”

In his quest to clock up a record-extending 14th trophy at the tournament which starts on 30 May, the third seed has been placed in the same half of the draw as the top seed Novak Djokovic.

The former world number one Roger Federer, seeded eighth, also hovers.

Nadal will start the defence of his title against the Australian Alexei Popyrin while Djokovic begins against Tennys Sandgren from the United States.

In the women’s draw, the 2020 champion Iga Swiatek kicks off against Kaja Juvan from Slovenia.

Top seed Ashleigh Barty, who claimed her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2019, will face Bernarda Pera from the United States.

Stance

Naomi Osaka, who on Thursday said she would not face journalists’ questions after her matches, will launch her quest for a fifth Grand Slam tournament title against the Romanian Patricia Maria Țig.

“Her decision is regrettable,” said Gilles Moretton, head of the French tennis Federation, which organises the French Open.

“It’s regrettable for journalists, for her personally and for tennis in general. I think it's a phenomenal mistake.”

In her four visits to the French Open, Osaka, seeded second this year, has never advanced past the third round.

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