No matter what he did, Australian underdog Sam Groth knew there was almost no way through the King of Clay.
The big-serving Groth was witness to a tennis masterclass on Tuesday, with nine-times French Open champion Rafael Nadal putting him to the sword to the tune of 6-1 6-1 6-1.
It took 80 minutes before the claycourt nightmare was over, but it remains a story for Groth to tell his grandchildren – right down to the ridiculous between-the-legs, down-the-line winner to which Groth could only laugh and shake his head.
“It was just the salt on the wound that one,” Groth said.
“He actually hit it so hard. He didn’t loop it in softly, he hit as clean as a whistle.
“…Obviously when I look back on my career, it will be great to say I played him at the French but I probably would’ve preferred just about any other person in the draw.
“If you say to most guys in the lockerroom ‘pick the players (you don’t) want to play at the French Open in the first round’ I’d say Rafa would be top of most guys list.”
Groth has endured an injury-plagued season – a foot complaint troubled him at the start of the year, while more recently a blocked nerve in his neck has proved troublesome.
He also split from coach Ben Mathias on the eve of the French Open – and on top of all that, clay remains his least favourite service.
“With the prep I’ve had coming in and with the year I’ve had even if I was playing great, he’s probably one of the most daunting tasks in tennis,” Groth admitted.
“Playing Rafael Nadal at the French Open … you go through the introduction on court and they talk about all the years he’s won it.
“His record here speaks for itself.”
Groth knew his only chance of forcing an unlikely upset, as he joked pre-match, would be to hit a record amount of winners.
That let to him “red-lining” his serve as he looked for any possible chink in Nadal’s armour – but it was not forthcoming.
The Spanish champion made just three unforced errors in a near flawless display of claycourt tennis.
“He wasn’t in a mood to give me too many free points, I tell ya,” Groth said.
“But you’ve got to expect that if you play him here.
“I was probably red lining my serve a little bit, over-serving a bit to try and beat him.
“But I was probably never going to beat him today.”