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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday May 18, 2022

The King of Clay has hit the ground running – not limping – in Paris.

Tennis Express

Rafael Nadal took to his familiar stomping grounds on court Philippe-Chatrier Wednesday in Paris and had a nice hitting session with compatriot Jaume Munar in front of an enthusiastic crowd. For now, the news is good. Nadal didn't display any signs of the extreme difficulties that he suffered in Rome in Thursday when he fell in the quarterfinals to Denis Shapovalov and struggled with his left foot.

“It's the time to accept the situation and fight,” Nadal said after that dispiriting loss last week. “That's it. Honestly, I can't tell you anything more now. It's not about that I can come back and can do treatment, that's the negative part of this thing. I have to come back.

“I don't know if rest, I don't know if maybe practice. But I still a goal in one week and a couple of days. I going to keep dreaming about that goal.”

It has been an atypical clay-court season for the Spaniard. Nadal did not manage to win a clay court title on the Road to Roland-Garros, after getting a late start on the surface due to a stress fracture in his rib, which was suffered at Indian Wells during his semifinal with Carlos Alcaraz. He returned to the court earlier this month in Madrid, where he lost in the quarterfinals to Alcaraz, and enters Roland-Garros with a 3-2 record on his beloved red clay in 2022.

Nadal normally racks up titles on the road to Roland Garros, where he has dominated events in Monte-Carlo (11 titles), Barcelona (12 titles) and Rome (10 titles), but the soon to be 36-year-old (June 3) has not claimed a trophy on clay in the lead up to Roland-Garros this year. He didn't in 2020 either, but still managed to come away with his 13th and most recent title in Paris.

The Spaniard holds a 105-3 lifetime record at Roland-Garros, but he will be under the gun this year as he bids for his fourteenth title under an injury cloud, while World No.1 Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, has recently surged to form. Djokovic won the title in Rome and is a top favourite to win a third title in Paris.

19-year-old Carlos Alacaraz is also considered a top favorite. The eye-catching Spaniard, considered by many to be the heir apparent in men's tennis, became the only player in history to defeat both Djokovic and Nadal at the same clay-court event at Madrid.

Alcaraz has won his last 10 matches on the trot, and owns a 28-3 record on the season (16-1) on clay

Nadal will need all of his energy beneath him if he is to overcome these challenges in Paris in 2022. A hearty on the red clay, with no signs if the foot injury that plagued him in Rome is a big start.