By Leighton Ginn
Every time Rafael Nadal steps onto the red clay of the French Open, he’s always the man to beat.
Having a target on his back hasn’t been a big deal. Nadal has an astonishing 70-2 record at Roland Garros with nine titles.
Nadal might not be the favorite this year, not with the way Novak Djokovic is playing, and with Andy Murray starting to find his groove on the dirt.
But Nadal will likely have a difficult obstacle this year, which are drug allegations.
Back in March, after Maria Sharapova revealed she tested positive for meldonium, the former French minister of health and sports, Roselyne Bachelot, accused Nadal of failing a drug test, but covered up his suspension with a bogus injury.
Through the early parts of the BNP Paribas Open, Nadal had to deal with questions about the accusations. It got to the point that on March 13, Nadal said he had enough following his second-round victory over Gilles Muller.
” There is a couple of times I heard comments like this, and this gonna be the last one, because I gonna sue her,” Nadal said. “I am tired about these things. I let it go a few times in the past. No more. I know how tough I worked to be here. To hear those comments from a person that should be serious, because (she) was minister of a big country and a great country like France.
“So I gonna sue her, and I gonna sue everyone who gonna comment something similar in the future, because I am tired of that.”
It should be noted that Nadal has not failed a drug test in his careers. Bachelot had not offered any evidence to support her claim.
In April, Nadal filed the lawsuit against Bachelot.
This will be Nadal’s time back in France since the comments. While Nadal threatens to sue anyone who makes similar allegations without evidence, it probably won’t apply to reporters who will ask questions.
And Nadal probably did open the door for questions with the lawsuit.
We’ll see how the French media handles the situation, and how the rest of the tennis media approaches the story.
They cycle of the story may have passed and maybe reporters will pursue other angles. But that seems unlike.
Sharapova will have her hearing to see how long of a suspension she will serve, and it will likely feed into the Nadal story.
If Nadal is dogged by questions throughout his time at Roland Garros, will it be a distraction? Could he lose focus?
Or could the adversity spur Nadal to his 10th title.
Roland Garros will be a tough proposition for Nadal anyways. Although he’s showing signs of getting close to his dominant form, he’s not there. Djokovic is playing the best of anyone, and he just got beat in Italy by Murray. And David Goffin is rising quickly up the rankings and will be a dangerous force.
A lot of adversity awaits Nadal.