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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday May 18, 2023

Daniil Medvedev has picked the perfect year to truly get in gear on the red clay. That’s because Rafael Nadal has announced his withdrawal from Roland-Garros, which means that the tournament will be without Nadal, which means that next Thursday’s men’s singles draw will be held without Nadal’s name as one of the 128 competitors for the first time since 2004.

Tennis Express

To Medvedev, the news means that the true favorite in Paris is out.

“I think it's bad news because you never want to see anyone injured, withdrawing, especially someone like Rafa,” he said on Thursday in Rome. “At the same time if we talk about favorites, for sure it changes. If he would announce maybe, he's going to say I'm not 100 percent but I'm going to play, he's the favorite because he's winning there 95 percent of the time he's playing probably.”

With Nadal out of the mix, and Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz experiencing turbulence in Rome, players like Medvedev who carry good form into Paris will have more of a shot than they did in previous years.

“Well first of all I guess it's the first Roland-Garros in whatever – I don't know, 10 years? – where there is no Rafa, and probably out of these ten, he won it what eight or nine times? So I think it opens the possibility for many players.”

Medvedev, who improved his clay-court record to 8-2 in 2023 with his win over Yannick Hanfmann on Thursday in Rome, would be one of the players, along with Djokovic, Alcaraz, Holger Rune, Stefanos Tsitsipas and many other players, who stands to benefit.

In the meantime, Medvedev wants to make it clear. Nobody can ever replace Rafa at Roland-Garros.

Asked if he thought Nadal’s body of work in Paris is the greatest achievement the sport has ever seen, he did not mince words.

“In tennis, for sure,” he said. “I think Novak won Australia, what, nine times, 10 this year? Still, Rafa won 14. Maybe Novak, if he makes 14 in Australia, then we going to have more talking…

“For the moment, Rafa on clay in general, but especially in Roland Garros, is just unreal. I honestly don't know how this is possible. I feel like I'm a good tennis player, but you can always have a bad day, or your opponent has a very good day. Like in Madrid I felt like I was not playing that bad against Karatsev. But I lost, and after the match I was like, ‘He played well. Okay, that's it.’

“Rafa didn't have these matches in Roland Garros, except maybe the match with Soderling where Robin played the match of his life and managed to win. This is unbelievable. I think in tennis, at least for the moment, there is no comparison.”