Rafael Nadal is the hot favourite to triumph at the French Open for an eighth time but he would not swap the six trophies he has already won this year for a return to the grand slam winners’ stage.
The Spaniard is looking for his first major since beating Bjorn Borg’s record in Paris 12 months ago, seven of which he spent on the sidelines recovering from a knee injury.
When Nadal returned to the tour in February, it was expected he would need time to work his way back to anywhere near his best, and there were serious doubts about whether he could ever get there.
But eight tournaments down the line and Nadal has six titles to his name, with his only two defeats coming in finals. Successive victories in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome were the perfect warm-up for Roland Garros not that he sees it that way.
The 26-year-old said: “It’s true that the grand slams are special tournaments. But, for me, winning Barcelona, winning Madrid, winning Rome means a lot.
“I don’t treat these tournaments like preparation for Roland Garros, they are serious for me. What makes me really happy is to be healthy and be competitive everywhere, every week.
“If you ask me if I could win one grand slam during the whole year or win six tournaments like I already did, I will choose to win six tournaments.
“Because when you win a grand slam you are happy one week or two weeks. When you are winning tournaments you are having the chance to be happy and you feel that you are doing the right things during the rest of the time.
“Sure, Roland Garros is going to mean a lot to me forever. It is my favourite. But I don’t play with more passion here than what I did in Rome last week. I try my best because I cannot play with more.”
Nadal was placed in the same half as world number one Novak Djokovic when the draw was made on Friday, meaning there cannot be a repeat of last year’s final.