World number three and the defending champion Rafael Nadal faces the Aussie challenge of Alexei Popyrin in the first round of the 2021 French Open on Sunday, May 30. Get the live streaming options of this Rafael Nadal v Alexei Popyrin match along with its preview, head to head, and tips here.
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Rafael Nadal v Alexei Popyrin Head to Head
There has been only one previous meeting between these two players and it came on the clay courts of the Madrid Masters played earlier this season. Nadal had won that in straight sets to make it to the last eight.
Nadal Begins Campaign for Number 14
He is as big a legend as they come in a sport. And Nadal will hope to continue doing what he has been to seal that position over the past few years as he kick-starts his campaign for a jaw-dropping 14th French Open title.
By anyone else’s standards and that includes top 10 players, Nadal’s record of 14-2 on clay this season, isn’t something to scoff at. And yet, when it’s Nadal and when it’s clay all eyes would be on those two losses and not the 14 wins, almost unfairly so.
The fact is Nadal still comes into this competition with two clay court titles under his belt, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final of Barcelona Open and then winning Rome Masters with a three-set win against Novak Djokovic in the title-decider. Earlier he had also tamed Alexander Zverev in that competition.
And all of those were best-of-three matches; in five-setters on clay Nadal is the kind of beast who becomes that much more difficult to compete against – let alone defeat. Because Nadal’s only defeat at Roland-Garros to a non-Big Three player came way back in 2009.
Popyrin Confident After Madrid Showing
Keeping aside the misfortune of playing Nadal in his first round, Popyrin will be reasonably glad with the way his season has gone so far.
Not known for his performances on clay, the Aussie made it through to second round at the Monte-Carlo Masters and the third in Madrid, both times as a qualifier. More vitally, Popyrin has also registered wins over Pablo Andujar and Jannik Sinner this clay swing.
And it’s not just on clay that Popyrin has excelled; he won his maiden ATP title earlier this season at Singapore and followed it up with a third round appearance in Miami.
Now facing Nadal might not get him anywhere but if he can push the Spaniard into a tie-breaker or two, it could give him another boost despite the result.
Nadal v Popyrin Prediction and Tip
While going for anything but a straight-set win for Nadal would be a big risk, there could be at least one set that sees the Spaniard get stretched.