Nadal is bidding to become the first player in the Open era to win 10 titles at any Grand Slam event, with a spectacular return to form in 2017 once more marking the Spaniard out as this year's Roland Garros favourite.
On the men's side, Roger Federer, 35, announced on May 15 that he would be skipping the French Open and other European clay events on the circuit. That includes nine French Open championships, the most by any man at one major in history; Martina Navratilova won nine Wimbledon titles on the women's side.
However, Nadal is desperate to keep a lid on expectations.
"I think if you come there for the first time at a quite young age, you look up to them, to the other ones in the top 10, and feel unusual somehow because they have been your idols and now you're with them". "I played the best player on clay three times in three tournaments. It's a great opportunity for me to grow together with him".
The last of Nadal's 14 grand slam titles came on a drizzly day in Paris in 2014 when he beat David Ferrer and there have been times since then when his major-winning days looked over.
Despite failing to win a clay court tournament in 2017, Thiem's 2017 clay record of 12-4 combined with his victory over Nadal makes him a favourite for this year's French Open.
Friday's draw, meanwhile, placed him on a semi-final collision course with Djokovic.
"In the beginning, it's very tough to stay there", he said. Could he win his 10th French Open championship a year after withdrawing before the third round with an injured left wrist?
"He has been through all these transitions, he has been in my shoes before playing grand slams, being the best in the world, and facing all the challenges that are present in the tennis, in the professional sport".
Already, though, there is talk Agassi, a committed family man based in Las Vegas with wife Steffi Graf and their two teenage children, won't be around for the long haul.
"It's very odd to find first round two past champions", said Muguruza, who defeated Serena Williams in last year's final.
The German left-hander has endured a miserable clay court season, losing early in Stuttgart and crashing out in her Rome opener, while retiring from her last-16 clash in Madrid with a lower back injury. "Then it will be up to Andre to try to figure out how many weeks he can allocate.I think the potential is there for an exciting partnership".
"This is clay and it is one of the hardest surfaces to play on".
Murray, who is reportedly suffering from an illness, could face risky but injury-prone Juan Martin del Potro, playing his first Roland Garros since 2012, in the third round.
Murray has been reunited with coach Ivan Lendl this week having not spent significant time with the 57-year-old since Australia in January. For no less a judge than seven-times grand slam champion John McEnroe, it's not a question of if but when Zverev wins a grand slam.
"I nearly destroyed my wrist at Roland Garros", Nadal told Eurosport on Thursday.
This post was syndicated from Vanguard News.
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