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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, June 1, 2020

 
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal celebrates his 34th birthday on Wednesday with a vow: If Roland Garros can ensure player safety, he'll be in Paris to defend his crown in September.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Rafael Nadal will celebrate his 34th birthday on Wednesday sharing face time with family on Zoom.

The world No. 2 has made a pre-party vow: If Roland Garros can ensure safety from the coronavirus, he'll return to Paris to defend his French Open crown.

Watch: French Open May Play Fan Free

Roland Garros made the unilateral decision to move from its traditional May date to September 20th as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the sport until at least the start of August. 

In an interview with French TV program Stade 2, Nadal said health and safety is the top priority. Though he envisions "an uncertain, complicated situation," the 12-time French Open champion says he will play Paris if it's safe for players and staff.

"I do not look to the future in a professional way but in a medical way to preserve the health of all tournament workers, ATP workers and all players," Nadal told Stade 2. "I see an uncertain, complicated situation, but things never you know how they evolve.

"If you can compete safely, with the same possibilities for everyone, because we come from different parts of the world, and everyone can participate, I will be there. But today we must go with caution and responsibility to make the right decisions to guarantee the health of all of us who make up the world of tennis."



The possibility of a condensed schedule sets up an immense challenge for Nadal, who is defending champion of both Roland Garros and the US Open, which will make a decision on its status this month.

The Flushing Meadows major is scheduled to start on August 31st, though USTA officials say all options are on the table in trying to contest the US Open.

An energized Nadal rolled through 12 of the final 14 games charging to his record-extending 12th Roland Garros championship with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 triumph over a valiant and depleted Dominic Thiem in the 2019 Roland Garros final last June.

Tennis Express

The 19-time Grand Slam champion has been training twice a day at home in Mallorca and describes his progress as slow and steady.

"I am fine. I have been two months and something without being able to leave the house," Nadal said. "Luckily, I have machines that have allowed me to do physical training.

"Now I have been training for a couple of weeks, but very little by little. I do not train every day I am training progressively, slowly and with the utmost caution. The goal is to be ready for when you can play again and right now we don't know."

The sport shutdown has prompted Nadal to move his birthday celebration from its annual spot on the Roland Garros terrace to cyberspace.

"We replaced the Roland Garros terrace with the zoom," Nadal said. "We have no choice but to live with what we have and right now what we have is the zoom and not the Roland Garros terrace, unfortunately."

 

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