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Nadal’s 35th birthday party, no guests at French Open

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Rafael Nadal of Spain serves the ball to Alexei Popirin of Australia during his men’s singles first round tennis match on the third day of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 1, 2021. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT/AFP)

Rafael Nadal will celebrate his 35th birthday at the French Open on Thursday by facing Richard Gasquet when he was just 12 years old.

However, the schedulers have handed Nadal a slot for the evening session, which means his birthday party will fall flat as the match will take place at 9 pm with the COVID-19 curfew and spectator restrictions imposed.

French player Gasquet won his first junior clash against Nadal at the Petits Us tournament in France in 1999.

Sadly for him, he was as good as he would ever get.

On the ATP Tour, Nadal has monopolized his head-to-head and leads 16-0.

That record includes two meetings at Roland Garros in 2005 and 2018.

“I don’t have many French Opens left to play, so I want to make the most of it,” said Gasquet, who made his tournament debut in 2002.

His best performance was in 2016 when he lost to Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.

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Spain's Rafael Nadal (R) hugs while celebrating after victory against Richard Gasquet of France

Rafael Nadal (R) of Spain celebrates after his victory against Richard Gasquet (L) of France during his men’s singles third round match on the seventh day of The Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2018. Put it (Photo by Christoph Simon / AFP)

World number three Nadal, who has bid for the 14th French Open and the record-setting 21st Grand Slam title, is a close friend of Gasquet.

He was banned for a short in 2009 after publicly backing the French when he tested positive for cocaine, inadvertently done after kissing a woman in a Miami nightclub.

Nadal reached this year’s second round thanks to a straight-sets victory over Australia’s Alexei Popirin and has now won 26 consecutive sets in the tournament.

Roger Federer, also the winner of 20 Slams, renews his rivalry with Marin Cilic for a place in the last 32.

The Swiss star leads his head-to-head 9-1, Cilic’s only win came in the semifinals of the 2014 US Open when he claimed his only Grand Slam title.

2009 champion Federer advanced to the second round with a straight-sets win against Uzbek qualifier Denis Istomin in Paris.

It was his second win on the tour in 2021 and his first since losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the 2020 Australian Open.

He is still feeling back after having two knee surgeries last year.

Top seed and world number one Novak Djokovic is also in action in another 30-plus fight on Thursday as he faces Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion at the French Open, is bidding to become the first man to win all four Slams more than once in more than half a century.

Top seed Ashleigh Barty will take on Poland’s Magda Linet for a place in the last 32.

The 2019 champion admitted after her opening round win that she was “not 100%” after a left hip injury.

Barty’s successor as champion, Inga Swietek, will take on Rebecca Petersen of Sweden.

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