'I have to wait for my moment to win and I know that'
Rafael Nadal will rely on the Paris fear factor to overcome the scorching form of Novak Djokovic in his bid for a sixth French Open title.
For once, Nadal will not be the overwhelming favourite to win the season's second major, despite his terrifying presence on the Paris clay.
Nadal, whose brutal shot-making and experience at Roland Garros may still carry him through, has been beaten by Serbian Djokovic in four successive finals this year.
"The big champions are not just those that are able to win every week but those that are able to wait until the right moment," the world number one told reporters.
Nadal was speaking after losing again to Djokovic in last weekend's Rome final, stretching the Serb's 2011 record to 37-0 and leaving Nadal's grip on the top ranking in danger.
"I have to wait for my moment to win and I know that," said Nadal ahead of one of the most mouth-watering French Opens for years.
Image: Rafael Nadal
Djokovic's purple patch threatens to halt Nadal's charge
Djokovic's purple patch threatens to halt Nadal's charge to equal Bjorn Borg's six French Open crowns.
"I don't know how much good it brings to tennis, but it's good that someone else is able to win other than just (Roger) Federer and Nadal," said Djokovic. "It makes it more interesting."
Nadal has rarely been troubled on a Roland Garros court, losing only one match, in the fourth round in 2009 against Swede Robin Soderling.
"My first final in 2005, against (Argentine Mariano) Puerta, when he had a set point in the fourth. The 2006 final against Federer that comes down to a tiebreak," said the Spaniard, attempting to recall the odd scare.
"Also in 2006, against (Frenchman) Paul-Henri Mathieu, I had a very, very tough match. I don't remember another during which I felt I was in danger."
Image: Novak Djokovic (left) with Rafael Nadal
'Rafa is still right up there before anybody'
Nadal's top spin forehand and dogged tenacity on the demanding red clay could be key against Djokovic, who has had a tendancy to wear down, especially in five-setters.
However, that assumes Nadal will arrive in Paris in good physical shape, having almost been forced to pull out of the Rome Masters because of a virus.
"The most important thing is to arrive in the right conditions for the next tournament," the Spaniard acknowledged.
Nadal could feel the heat again if he is to meet Djokovic, who beat him in the Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome finals, on Centre Court on June 5.
Djokovic, justifiably for a man in the form of his life, remains quietly confident.
"I think Rafa is still right up there before anybody. I've never won Roland Garros, I've played a couple of times in semi-finals," said the Serb.
"Probably because I'm in the shape of my lifetime and playing the best tennis of my career I am one of the favourites, but Rafa has only lost one match there in his career."
Image: Rafael Nadal