Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal will begin his Italian Open campaign on Wednesday. In this picture, Rafael Nadal of Spain talks to the media during day one of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2018 tennis at Foro Italico in Rome, May 13, 2018. Julian Finney/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal begins his quest to get back on track at the Italian Open after his winning run on clay in 2018 was brought to an abrupt end by Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open.

Until his loss to the Austrian in Madrid, the Spaniard was unbeaten in 21-matches and had won 50 consecutive sets on clay, which is an open era record after he surpassed John McEnroe’s 49 consecutive set wins on carpet achieved in 1984. The straight sets defeat also saw him lose his spot as the world number one to long-time rival Roger Federer.

Nadal can get back to the summit in the ATP rankings with a win at the Italian Open, but despite his loss in Madrid, he remains the favorite to pick up his 11th French Open title in Roland Garros with the second Grand Slam of the year starting later in the month, following the event in Rome.

The 31-year-old’s loss in Madrid did not diminish his status as the top contender in Paris and also did not deter his preparation, after Nadal admitted that he does not consider his participation in the four clay court tournaments leading up to the French Open as preparation.

The world number two made it clear that he treats the tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome as individual events, which are important to him. Nadal has a great history in all the four events having won them on numerous occasions during his career.

The 16-time men’s Grand Slam champion will be keen to get back to winning ways, but is clear that his winning or losing the Italian Open will not have any bearing on his prospects of picking up his 11th Roland Garros title.

“I never consider no one of these events like preparation for another one,” Nadal said Sunday, ahead of the start of the Italian Open, as quoted by the Express. “Never approach it — no one event, Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, like an approach for Roland Garros.”

“Every tournament is very important for itself. And for me, even more. Because I have a great story on all these events. I won here seven times. And, for me, it’s very special always to play here in this tournament.

“So, I can win Roland Garros losing here, and I can win Roland Garros winning here,” the Spanish tennis icon added, talking about his chances at the French Open.

Nadal will begin his Italian Open campaign against Damir Džumhur on Wednesday evening after the Bosnian beat Fernando Verdasco in the first round. The Spaniard again has Thiem in the same half of the draw and could potentially come up against the Austrian in the quarter-finals, with Novak Djokovic a potential semi-final opponent.