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Ahead of French Open, slumping Nadal says he's taking it one round at a time

Rafael Nadal at the Madrid Open Tennis tournament on May 10, 2015.

Rafael Nadal at the Madrid Open Tennis tournament on May 10, 2015.

Rafael Nadal said on Wednesday that he was only thinking about the first round of the French Open, a tennis tournament he has won nine times before.

The Spanish star said that he expected he would do well in what he considers "the most important tournament of the year,” despite his struggles this year on clay.

Nadal told journalists shortly before flying to Paris for Roland Garros, as the French Open is officially named, that winning or losing would not make or break his world.

This is the first time Nadal heads to Roland Garros without having won the Madrid Open, which he lost in the final to Scotland's Andy Murray – a defeat that dropped him to No. 7 on the ATP World Rankings.

The Spaniard stressed that the Roland Garros matches would be difficult, but that he was going to take the tournament one round at a time.

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Nadal believes that he is "getting better,” noting that he gains more confidence with time, despite losing two recent matches that he could have won – the Madrid final and a quarterfinal match at the Italian Open against Swiss player, Stan Wawrinka.

This season, Nadal has lost five matches on clay, his best playing surface. Despite his struggles, the Associated Press made him the second-favorite to win the French Open after Novak Djokovic. He is listed at 3-1 odds.

While in the French capital, Nadal will be awarded on Thursday the Grand Vermeil Medal of Paris by the city's Spanish-born mayor, Anne Hidalgo.

Based on reporting by EFE. The Associated Press contributed to this report.