Paris, May 26: When Yannick Hanfmann takes on 11-time champion Rafael Nadal in the biggest match of his career at Roland Garros, he won't be fazed by the noise generated by thousands of fans getting behind the Spaniard as being partially deaf from childhood means he probably won't hear them anyway.
The 27-year-old German, ranked a lowly 184 in the world, has come through three tough rounds of qualifying to make the main draw in Paris for the first time. Likely to play Nadal on the 15,000-seater Court Philippe Chatrier, Hanfmann says his childhood deafness can occasionally work to his advantage.
"A centre court full of spectators doesn't affect me," the Munich resident told Germany daily Bild in an interview.
"I have a hearing aid but it doesn't really work. Sometimes it's a problem, because not everyone knows. "If I don't react when somebody calls my name, they think 'what's up with him?'"
Hanfmann only turned professional four years ago after a four-year US college stint in which he helped the University of Southern California win two national titles. He has won just one match on the main tour all year and his earnings reflect that.
In 2019, he has banked just $3,600 while world number two Nadal has earned $3.7 million in the same period, taking his career total to almost $107 million. Whatever happens when he faces Nadal, Hanfmann is guaranteed his biggest pay day yet -- 46,000 euros if he exits in the first round.
Despite the disparity in achievement on court, Nadal will not be over-confident. In the build-up to Roland Garros, he reminded those keen to install him as favourite for a 12th French Open title of his shock losses to Steve Darcis and Dustin Brown at Wimbledon.
Belgium's Darcis was ranked 135 when he stunned Nadal in the Wimbledon first round in 2013. German player Brown was 102 when he dumped the Spaniard out of the All England Club two years later.
"The problem with Dustin Brown is that if I play badly, I lose to anyone," said Nadal. "In 2015, I was playing badly, it was normal to lose to a dangerous player on grass.
"I also lost to Darcis in 2013. It's part of the sport. When one plays badly he usually loses."
At Roland Garros, however, Nadal has only lost twice in 14 years -- against the now-retired Robin Soderling in 2009 and this year's top seed Novak Djokovic in 2015. Against those two losses are an astounding 86 wins.