Mary Joe Fernandez picked Rafael Nadal as the perpetual favorite at the Roland Garros championship. She made the remark while speaking on Patrick McEnroe’s podcast, ‘Holding Court with Patrick McEnroe.’
Fernandez and McEnroe have been colleagues at ESPN for a number of years and provided commentary for the 2023 Australian Open together.
Patrick McEnroe posed a hypothetical and asked Mary Joe Hernandez who she would pick as the favorite if the French Open was to start the following week. He added that Rafael Nadal would be relatively healthy in this scenario. Fernandez replied that in a scenario where the Spaniard was healthy, she would always pick him as the French Open champion.
“If Rafa’s healthy, I’m still going to say Rafa,” the former World No.4 said.
She added that anyone who wins one particular tournament 14 times will be the favorite every single time they compete in the event, regardless of their current form.
“Someone who wins the tournament 14 times, to me is the favorite every time they play, even if they haven’t played all year,” the American said.
Fernandez said that the 14-time Roland Garros champion was a different beast on clay and would remain the one to beat at the French Open.
“He becomes a different player on the clay, he becomes a different player at the French Open,” Fernandez said.
She did say that while Novak Djokovic has beaten him at the tournament before and that a lot could change fitness-wise between now and then, she would still tip Rafael Nadal as the French Open champion. She gave the example of the Spaniard not winning any clay court tournaments in the lead-up to the 2022 Grand Slam and still winning his 22nd Major at the event.
Mary Joe Fernandez asserted that the Mallorcan would remain the front-runner at the French Open until he retired.
“Until he stops playing he’s going to be the favorite,” she claimed.
Patrick McEncroe chimed in with a joke that Rafael Nadal would be the favorite at the French Open even if he was on crutches.
Rafael Nadal withdraws from the upcoming tournaments in Dubai and Qatar
Rafael Nadal sustained a hip injury during the second set of his second-round match against Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open. He confirmed that he had a Grade 2 iliopsoas injury after undergoing an MRI scan.
The former World No.1 has withdrawn from the Dubai Tennis Championships and the Qatar Open as he undergoes his recovery process. Subsequently, he chose to opt out of the exhibition match against Carlos Alcaraz that was scheduled to be held on March 5 at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“I am very sad for not being able to come to Vegas and play in this amazing event with Carlos at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Unfortunately, the timing of my recovery doesn’t make it possible to be there ready to play,” the Spaniard wrote in his statement.
The unfortunate circumstances have caused Rafael Nadal to be in danger of dropping out of the ATP top 10 after a record 908 weeks.