Roland Garros is Rafa Nadal country. In Paris, Nadal is king. An old city with respect for tradition, the French admire and honor World No. 1 Novak Djokovic — and his incendiary tennis dominance of late. But there is only one 9-time French Open champion in the draw for the 2016 tournament — and his name is Rafael. (You’d have to go to the Louvre to see a Raphael the French admire more.)
Things have been looking up for Nadal too, entering the French. He’s put in strong performances on clay and comes to Roland Garros with a 20-4 record on his favorite surface. Thanks to Roger Federer‘s bowing out, Nadal also nabbed the No. 4 seed, putting him below only Djokovic, Andy Murray and defending champion Stan Wawrinka. And though his star has been dimmed by injury, Nadal is just a year removed from his last French title (2014). Yet it does seem long ago. It was in the 2014 French Open final that Rafa Nadal last won a set against Novak Djokovic. Djokovic has won seven straight against the king since, including most recently in Rome.