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What's it like to play Rafael Nadal at French Open? 'Rough'

Updated : May 28, 2019 10:24 AM IST

Like so many others who have faced Rafael Nadal, Yannick Hanfmann thought he had a plan. Until that is, tennis' greatest clay-court player dismantled it stroke by stroke on the red dirt where he has won 11 French Open titles." After the first two sets, you're thinking like, 'Damn,'" Hanfmann, a German ranked 184th, said after losing 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 on Monday. "It's rough." The 27-year-old former college player at the University of Southern California, who won three qualifying matches to earn the dubious honor of being Nadal's punching bag in the opening round of the main draw, didn't make a fool of himself in what was his first career match on the showcase Court Philippe Chatrier. Indeed, in what would have amounted to a minor earthquake in the arena that is practically Nadal's backyard had he converted, Hanfmann even had four chances to break the Spaniard in his first service game. But the experience of facing Nadal for the first time, and at Roland Garros to boot, can do strange things to the uninitiated.

Germany's Yannick Hanfmann serves against Spain's Rafael Nadal during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler )
Germany's Yannick Hanfmann serves against Spain's Rafael Nadal during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler )
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Germany's Yannick Hanfmann plays a shot against Spain's Rafael Nadal during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Germany's Yannick Hanfmann plays a shot against Spain's Rafael Nadal during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann in three sets 6-2, 6-1, 6-3, during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann in three sets 6-2, 6-1, 6-3, during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Spain's Rafael Nadal plays a shot against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Spain's Rafael Nadal plays a shot against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Spectators on center court Philippe Chatrier watch the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament between Spain's Rafael Nadal, right, and Germany's Yannick Hanfmann at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Spectators on center court Philippe Chatrier watch the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament between Spain's Rafael Nadal, right, and Germany's Yannick Hanfmann at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Germany's Yannick Hanfmann plays a shot against Spain's Rafael Nadal during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Germany's Yannick Hanfmann plays a shot against Spain's Rafael Nadal during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Spain's Rafael Nadal slips in his first round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler )
Spain's Rafael Nadal slips in his first round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler )
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler )
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler )
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
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