He might be the only person on the planet who thinks it is possible, but Australian underdog Sam Groth is ready to turn king slayer to take down Rafael Nadal.
The King of Clay, and owner of nine French Open titles, was the last name Groth wanted to hear read out as his first round opponent.
But that’s the name Australia’s two-time grand slam champion and current Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt passed on during a practice hit-out during Friday’s draw.
“Obviously it’s as tough as the draw can get in Paris,” Groth admitted.
But despite the ominous assignment – Groth is a 67-1 outsider to beat Nadal – the underdog tag suits the 28-year-old well and he’s happy in a “dream land” where he believes victory isn’t out of reach.
“I’m going to go out there believing I can (win),” Groth said on Saturday ahead of the Nadal showdown, which will take place either Monday or Tuesday night (AEST).
“Whether it’s a reality or not… maybe I’ll live in my own little dream world for a few days but I’m not going to walk out there and think I’m beaten before I get out there otherwise I might as well just pack up my bags and head to the grass now.”
Groth knows he cannot be drawn into the type of game Nadal thrives on – lengthy baseline rallies where he moves opponents around the court – and says he plans on playing with freedom to try and unsettle the fourth seed.
“The guy’s won the tournament nine times so for me there’s not a lot of expectation,” Groth said.
“I can sort of go out and try and swing freely.
“…I’ve got to make him feel uncomfortable. The last thing I want to let him do is run me side to side with his forehand.
“I’m going to have to play a game that upsets him and gives him no rhythm and if on that day I’m good enough, I’m good enough and if not I’m going to give it a good run.”
After overcoming a foot injury earlier in the year, Groth has struggled with a blocked nerve in his neck which has hampered him and forced him to withdraw from two tournaments in the past month.
On Friday, hitting with Hewitt, he played a set and a half “full serving for the first time in two-and-a-half weeks”, which has given him confidence he’ll be ready to throw everything at Nadal.