PARIS May 24 Making his comeback after missing the last two grand slams, Rafa Nadal probably expects a warm reception next week when he returns to Roland Garros - an event which is supposed to be one of the summer highlights of the French sporting calendar.
Yet the Spaniard, in pursuit of a record-extending eighth title, is likely to be greeted by cold, grey and damp weather and few would blame him if he turned up at the French Open with thermals covering his bulging muscles.
After being out of action for seven months with a knee injury following a shock second-round exit at Wimbledon last year, Nadal has enjoyed a spectacular run of form which his great rival Roger Federer summed up as: "Eight out of eight finals of eight tournaments. It's amazing."
That run had included six titles, including Masters success in Indian Wells, Madrid and Rome.
In Paris, however, the devastating effect of his top spin will be less felt with rain showers forecast and temperatures expected to be between 5-10 degrees below usual.
"Just to be here is a very positive news for me and I'm really happy. Only negative thing is this cold," Nadal told a news conference on Friday after he was drawn in the same half as world number one Novak Djokovic.
Nadal's troublesome knees not only forced him to miss the Olympics, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open in January but it also led to speculation about his future in the sport.
Nadal has proved that his knees can still withstand the rigours of the sport and showed that he had not returned to merely make up the numbers.
His six titles this season is more than what the three players ranked above him - Djokovic, Andy Murray and Federer - have won between them and once again Nadal is the overwhelming favourite to lift the trophy in Paris.
"Playing at Roland Garros is always a special feeling and I feel very emotional every time that I am back here," Nadal, seeded third due to the absence of Murray, said.
"Last year was important for me, to win the seventh, one more than (any other man) on this surface. That means a lot to me. Roland Garros is going to mean a lot to me forever. It's my favourite," added Nadal, whose astonishing Roland Garros win-loss record stands at 52-1, with a 7-0 record in the finals.
With 11 grand slam titles in his possession and being one of only seven men to have won all four majors, few would have been surprised if the injury-ravaged Nadal made winning the big titles a priority at this stage of his career.
However, the 26-year-old said every title meant the world to him.
"If you ask me (whether I would prefer to) win one grand slam during the whole year or win six tournaments like I already did, I will choose win six tournaments," he said.
"Because when you win a grand slam you are happy for one or two weeks. When you are winning tournaments (all year) you are having the chance to be happy (more often) and you feel that you are doing the right things during the rest of the season.
"So grand slams are important... but they are not the only ones." (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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