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Rody blasts tycoons anew

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President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday did not mince words as he lambasted anew Metro Manila’s water distributors, saying that they are “thieves.”

In his speech in front of former rebels in San Isidro, Leyte, Duterte also said that “crazy rich” people should be killed as they are fooling the Filipinos.

“But Philippines has been gravely fooled by the rich people in the Philippines. Just like Ayala and Pangilinan who own Globe and Smart. They are all thieves, those sons of b******. That’s the whole truth,” the President said in Visayan.

“There are rich people in the Philippines who are crazy. They’re the ones whom we should kill,” he added.

“They are listening now because this is being broadcasted nationwide. Well it’s good for them to hear this. They have violated the rights of people. They are just distributors of water yet they have become millionaires because they overpowered the Filipino. That’s why I am angry at them.”

To recall, the President has repeatedly lashed out against water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water, saying the two firms’ contracts with the government “rip off” the public.

Manila Water is part of the Ayala group of companies, while Maynilad is jointly owned by DMCI Holdings Inc and Metro Pacific Investments Corp., the latter headed by Manny Pangilinan.

“Just wait for my go signal. Behind a killing is a leader, especially if his followers are stupid and would just fire whenever they are told to.”

The President also previously said he wanted to send billionaires to jail.

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Lord slams Alan’s ‘theatrics,’ bogus resignation rejection

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REP. Alan Peter Cayetano as he signs the "gentleman's agreement" with Rep. Lord Allan Velasco looking on at right. Photograph from the FB of Rep. Velasci

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco on Wednesday evening urged his colleagues in the House of Representatives to be men and women of honor by respecting the term-sharing agreement forged by President Rodrigo Duterte between him and Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano for the speakership.

Velasco lamented what he described as the theatrics pulled off by Cayetano in offering his resignation and in its being rejected by a few members of the House in what many lawmakers called a sham proceeding.

He also called on House members to focus on passing the 2021 national budget even as he assured fairness in leadership that gives a premium on unity.

“I express my deepest gratitude to President Duterte for calling the 29 September 2020 meeting and bringing together his key allies in Congress despite his busy schedule,” Velasco said.

“As the Father of the Nation and a true Statesman, the President has once again proven his leadership and steadfast resolve to bridge differences and unite parties regardless of their political affiliations for the country to sail in one direction and to prioritize the welfare of our people,” he said.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” he added.

Velasco reminded Cayetano that it was only last night (Tuesday) that he promised to resign on 14 October when the President ordered him to honor the term-sharing agreement as an “usapang lalaki” or agreement between men.

“Moreover, the President entrusted you with the task of announcing the date of the turnover,” Velasco said, referring to Cayetano.

Velasco said the 14th of October was chosen as the date for the turnover because of their commitment to passing the budget before the said date while doing nothing to disrupt or derail the process.

He thanked Cayetano for confirming the timetable in his privilege speech on Wednesday, as well as the details of their meeting with the President – that he will resign on the 14th.

“It is most unfortunate, therefore, that today, deliberations on the budget were suspended. Instead of focusing on the work at hand, further political maneuverings and theatrics took the budget deliberations hostage,” Velasco said.

“We lost an entire day, and even tomorrow where you have declared that no session will be conducted, which are crucial in meeting our timeline. These attacks and distractions serve no purpose other than to perpetuate what is a purely personal agenda threatening to delay the passage of the budget. This is the truth,” he stressed.

Velasco then called on members of the House to continue their work and pass the budget on 14 October as a commitment they’ve made to the President and as their responsibility to their constituents to deliver to them a “fair and equitable budget.”

“I assure my peers that we will be a gracious leader who would listen and be responsive to your concerns. But I make an earnest plea: Let us uphold the dignity of the House of Representatives by being men and women who believe in “Palabra de Honor” in keeping our word and upholding the term-sharing agreement Speaker Cayetano and I swore to honor and respect,” Velasco said.

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Bayern win German Super Cup

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Bayern Munich's German midfielder Joshua Kimmich scores 3:2 during the German Supercup football match FC Bayern Munich v BVB Borussia Dortmund in Munich, Southern Germany, on 30 September 2020. (AFP photo)

MUNICH, Germany — Bayern Munich claimed their fifth title of the year on Wednesday as a late Joshua Kimmich goal sealed their 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund to land the German Super Cup.

Hosts Bayern built a 2-0 lead with first-half goals by Corentin Tolisso and Thomas Mueller, only for Erling Braut Haaland to equalise early in the second half after Julian Brandt pulled a Dortmund goal back just before the break.

However, Kimmich settled the matter through sheer determination behind closed doors at the Allianz Arena.

His initial shot was saved by Dortmund goalkeeper Marwin Hitz but the rebound clipped Kimmich’s boot and looped in for the winning goal eight minutes from time.

“Joshua is a classy player. The way he chipped that ball in,” said Bayern captain Manuel Neuer in admiration.

Having had their record 23-match winning streak ended by a shock defeat at Hoffenheim on Sunday, Bayern bounced back with Kimmich leading the charge.

“As long as I have known him (Kimmich), his mentality is very special. He is well on his way to being one of those players who shape this club,” Bayern head coach Hansi Flick told broadcaster ZDF.

Bayern have already won an eighth-straight Bundesliga title, the German Cup, Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup this year.

This is the fourth time in five years they have won the showcase match.

Sancho missing

Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Buerki and England winger Jadon Sancho missed the flight to Munich with “a respiratory infection”, the club said, but both tested negative on Monday for Covid-19.

Flick made five changes from the side which lost 4-1 at Hoffenheim.

Leroy Sane was sidelined by a knee injury, Leon Goretzka rested and Segre Gnabry started on the bench.

Canadian left-back Alphonso Davies moved up to the wing and Tolisso started in central midfield.

The Frenchman gave Bayern the lead when Robert Lewandowski put in a short cross from the right wing and Tolisso side-footed home on 18 minutes.

Mueller grabbed Bayern’s second when he headed home after Davies floated in a cross on 32 minutes.

Brandt put Dortmund back in the game five minutes before the break when Benjamin Pavard’s loose pass was snapped up by Marco Reus and Brandt finished the move.

It was 2-1 at the break, but Dortmund defender Thomas Meunier fired a golden chance over the bar early in the second half with just Manuel Neuer to beat.

Dortmund drew level when central midfielder Thomas Delaney slid a great pass into Haaland, who showed ice cool finishing to fire past Neuer on 55 minutes.

It was the 20-year-old’s 19th goal in 22 games for Dortmund.

With time running out, Kimmich robbed Delaney of possession near the halfway line and sprinted clear with Lewandowski in support.

The pair exchanged passes and although Hitz saved the inital shot, the rebound looped over his head into the Dortmund goal after clipping Kimmich’s boot.

The Super Cup was the final game for Bundesliga referee Bibiana Steinhaus, 41, the first female to officiate in one of Europe’s top leagues, before retirement.

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Layoffs loom for beleaguered US airlines

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US airlines have been grounding planes and delaying jet deliveries to limit their cash-burn as air travel remains at about only one-third of its level a year ago.

NEW YORKUnited States — Workers from the beleaguered US airline industry are making a last-ditch public appeal this week to coax more money from Capitol Hill power brokers to save their jobs.

The first day of October concludes the period when US carriers that received billions in aid from Congress promised to refrain from laying off workers.

A package of loans totaling up to $25 billion to seven US carriers announced Tuesday night by the Treasury Department provides funds for airlines to ride out a prolonged downturn amid the coronavirus, but won’t affect plans for furloughs, airline sources said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday on CNBC he was hopeful airlines would postpone layoffs if congressional leaders can reach a framework for a deal, saying it was “critical” for Congress to act.

Meanwhile, flight attendants have taken to social media with tearful photos of what could be their last flight on the job and anxious appeals for lawmakers to act.

“I cannot afford to be jobless (for) over a year,” wrote one flight attendant on Twitter, saying she was a single mother who spent 14 years as a flight attendant. “American families need relief too!”

While the stalemate in Washington over stimulus has pinched unemployed workers and put public sector employees on notice, vulnerable airline workers have in some ways been the poster children for the impasse.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mnuchin held talks again Tuesday and agreed to keep negotiating. But a deal is still far from assured.

Voluntary exit

Since the coronavirus intensified in March, US airlines have been grounding planes and delaying jet deliveries to limit their cash-burn as air travel remains at about only one-third of its level a year ago.

Carriers have struck agreements with unions to spread out work among employees. Tens of thousands of employees have also accepted unpaid leave or early retirement packages to avert the need for involuntary terminations.

Still, the decisions will not be enough to avert all job cuts. Airlines have said they do not expect a full recovery until a vaccine is widely available, which company executives have said may not be until late 2021.

Unions have said 100,000 people or more could be laid off without additional federal aid, but analysts expect a smaller number than that as airlines and unions seek ways to avoid layoffs.

In the latest such deal, United Airlines on Monday reached an agreement with its pilots union to avert furloughs of 2,850 employees.

However, United is still on track to furlough as many as 13,000 other workers as soon as October 1. These include flight attendants and staff in other airport operations.

American Airlines has also said it expects to cut as many as 19,000 jobs.

Southwest Airlines has said it does not plan involuntary job cuts.

The Delta Air Lines pilot union last week said it reached an agreement with the company to avoid furloughs until at least November 1 to give congressional talks more time.

Delta has said earlier voluntary staff departures and union agreements averted the need for involuntary job cuts for flight attendants and other frontline employees.

Peter McNally, an analyst at research firm Third Bridge, predicted there would be significant downsizing throughout the industry.

“The businesses can not support the cost structure as it is,” McNally said in an interview. “They worked around it through furloughs and early retirement and voluntary departures, but there are still going to be a lot of layoffs.

“The recovery has just not come as quickly as people had hoped,” he said.

Public sector faces crunch

Airline workers are hardly the only losers from Washington’s inability to enact fiscal stimulus.

Laid-off workers had been receiving $600 in weekly supplemental unemployment benefits under a provision of the CARES Act that expired at the end of July.

President Donald Trump authorized an additional $300 in weekly spending by tapping federal emergency funds, but those funds are also running out and expected to be gone in October, said Nancy Vanden Houten of Oxford Economics.

“Households got quite a boost from these benefits, so we’re going to see a pretty big drop-off,” she said in an interview.

Another vulnerable group is public sector workers, who face an uncertain future as governments struggle with lower tax revenues and, in many cases, balanced budget rules.

The most recent version of House Democrats’ “Heroes Act” includes more than $400 billion in funding for state and local governments, a provision Republicans oppose.

The Economic Policy Institute has estimated that failure to provide support to local government could cost 5.3 million jobs through 2021.

Without the funding, “they’ll have no choice but to do layoffs and cut social services,” said Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the institute, a think tank that advocates for low- and middle-income workers.

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Two Antipolo public markets closed

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The markets were closed for not complying with the minimum health standards. (Facebook image)
Two public markets in Antipolo City have been shut down by the local government over violations of health and safety protocols against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Antipolo City Mayor Andrea Yñares on Wednesday announced she ordered the temporary closure of MLQ Market located at F. Manalo Street, Barangay Dalig for allegedly disregarding minimum health standards put in place amid the threat of COVID-19.
“Sa atin pong mga tindero at tindera sa MLQ Market alam po namin na mahirap at hindi natin nakasanayan ang pagsusuot ng mask pero kailangan po natin sumunod sa mga health and safety protocols ng IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force] at DoH (Department of Health) para sa ating kaligtasan, ng ating mga pamilya at mamimili,” Yñares said in a social media post.
Yñares also ordered the temporary closure of Tri-Star Agora Market at CMMK in Barangay San Roque for allegedly not complying with the minimum health standards.
“Kasabay ng COVID-19 testing na isinagawa natin sa Tri Star Agora Market, nag-ikot din po ang Joint Inspection Teams kung nasusunod ang mga minimum health and safety protocols. Madaming vendors ang nakitang lumabag sa mga patakarang pangkaligtasan para sa ating mga kababayan kaya sila ay ipinasara ng BPLO (Business Permits and Licensing Office) at City Health Office,” Yñares said.
The mayor said the city legal office is also currently studying the responsibilities of the management of Tri-Star Agora for not complying with the health and safety protocols of the IATF.
“Bukod dito, natuklasan din na ilang buwan nang sira ang kanilang STP [Sewerage Treatment Plant] kaya mabaho at maduming tubig o sewer ang kanilang tinatapon araw-araw at diretsong dumadaloy sa ating mga ilog . . . na isang paglabag sa Republic Act 4850 pati na din sa Clean Water Act . . . mga legal na dahilan sa pagpapasara sa kanila,” Yñares said.
As of 7 p.m. of 29 September, Antipolo has 2,403 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 77 fatalities and 2,056 recoveries.
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Unlikely reunion

I’m here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to compete for a championship.

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LEBRON James finds himself facing a familiar foe — the Miami Heat — in his return to the NBA Finals. / Brian Babineau/Agence france-presse

MIAMI — LeBron James wants to beat the Miami Heat.

The Heat want to beat LeBron James.

These shouldn’t be surprising notions to anyone — not with a title at stake.

Those looking for more acrimony than that, well, they may be disappointed.

The NBA Finals start Wednesday night (Thursday in Manila) and the James against Miami story line is shaping up as little more than a meeting of the mutual admiration society, albeit with a championship at stake.

James is looking to bring the Los Angeles Lakers back to basketball’s mountaintop for the first time since 2010 and the Heat are looking to cap a surprising season with their fourth crown.

“I’m here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to compete for a championship,” James said on the eve of Game 1 of his 10th finals, where he will be seeking ring No. 4.

James was asked any number of different ways about his time in Miami, his thoughts on coach Erik Spoelstra, his opinion of Heat president Pat Riley.

He never took the bait as he spoke only with fondness for the four years he spent in Miami and the two titles the Heat won during that stay.

“Being a part of that culture allowed me to grow, allowed me to see what it takes to not only compete for a championship but also to win a championship,” James said.

“So, it definitely put me in a position where I knew what it took. I saw what it took. But also, I fit that culture as well because of how hard I worked. It was a perfect match for those four years.”

James left Miami and the Finals have been an almost-annual stop since; this is his fifth appearance in the title round in the six seasons that followed his Heat tenure.

It’s the first time Miami has been back since he left. During that time, the Heat did some rebuilding a couple of times and used 60 different players in those six seasons.

Miami also endured the departure, return and then retirement of Dwyane Wade and the premature end of Chris Bosh’s career for health reasons.

Spoelstra is designing a game plan with hopes of keeping James in some sort of check, of course. That doesn’t mean he didn’t speak with reverence when asked about the Lakers’ best player.

“I just think it is a true testament to his greatness to be able to sustain this type of success year in, year out,” Spoelstra said.

“Different uniforms, new players and new teams going after him. It’s a real testament to that commitment. He’s seen everything. At this point in his career, it’s just about winning. And his ability to do what he does at his age is incredibly uncommon. But there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to be able to maintain that.”

The feeling is mutual.

James, on Spoelstra: “I’m not going to sit up here and act like I don’t know what Spo is all about, because he’s damned good, if not great.”

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Kush consignee arrested in Cebu City

Anthony Ching

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The suspect is handcuffed by an undercover cop. (Contributed photo)

The Bureau of Customs (BoC) announced the arrest Tuesday of the claimant to the P1.5 million worth of kush or marijuana intercepted at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The BoC said the claimant was apprehended in Cebu City by the operatives during a controlled delivery operation Tuesday afternoon.

The entrapment operation was conducted by the BoC Port of NAIA in coordination with the PDEA Region 7, CIIS-Cebu, ESS-Cebu, BoC Intelligence Group and NAIA Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group (NAIA-IADITG).

The illegal cargo was declared as “Shisha” when it was shipped from Spain by Richard Mrozek. It was consigned to Mateo Abato, a resident of Cebu City. The said cargo arrived last 18 September at FedEx Warehouse in NAIA Complex, Pasay City.

Thru the vigilance and intensified profiling of the Port of NAIA, they found out that the subjected cargo was containing kush or marijuana and the duty examiner immediately coordinated and reported it to the PDEA and NAIA-IADITG for appropriate chemical laboratory analysis. Thereafter, the subject cargo was confirmed to be kush marijuana.

Consequently, PDEA Regional Office 7 and NAIA-IADITG with the CCPO-CIU, CIIS-Cebu, ESS-Cebu and BoC Intelligence Group, proceeded with the controlled delivery operations, which resulted the apprehension of Jan Robert Pareles at Asmara Urban Resort, 1 Paseo Saturnino St., Brgy. Banilad, Cebu City.

The BoC-NAIA formally turned the seized marijuana to the PDEA last 29 September 2020, a day before the claimant was arrested, for further profiling and case buildup against the importers and other personality responsible for possible prosecution for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 in relation to Section 1401 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

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Stock markets weaker after Trump-Biden debate

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US President Donald Trump (left) and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on 29 September 2020. (AFP)

LONDONUnited Kingdom — Global stock markets were mostly weaker Wednesday following a chaotic US presidential debate in which Donald Trump again suggested the election could be fraudulent while hopes for a second coronavirus stimulus package out of Washington helped lift the dollar.

In Europe, London also sank as investors digested official data confirming that Britain’s virus-hit economy collapsed by almost a fifth in the second quarter.

Sentiment was additionally hit after Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell announced plans to axe up to 9,000 staff over the next two years to combat this year’s coronavirus-driven slump in oil prices.

Yet it was Republican Trump’s chaotic jousting with Democrat opponent Joe Biden that grabbed the spotlight.

“The US presidential debate has done little to boost market sentiment, as Trump fails to take his opportunity to regain ground,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online trading group IG.

“Pollsters point towards a potential Biden gain in the polls… with the president’s erratic style likely helping Biden to shift the focus away from his often lacklustre memory and debating abilities.”

Personal barbs

Trump and Biden traded personal barbs in the first of three debates ahead of the 3 November vote, with observers saying the president had needed a strong showing as he trailed in most national and battleground polls.

The much-anticipated match-up, however, descended almost immediately into a shouting match, with little of substance emerging from either man.

When asked if they pledged to urge calm and refrain from declaring victory if the election result is not immediately known, Biden said “yes”, while Trump would not commit, saying that if he saw “tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that”.

The president’s claims about voter fraud have raised concerns among investors that the result could be drawn out and fuel uncertainty for the US economy.

“President Trump and Democrat nominee Joe Biden engaged in what can only be described as a fact-free name calling contest,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

“Financial markets appear to have taken their cues from that, shrugging off some better than expected Chinese PMI data, which showed improvement in both manufacturing and services in September.”

The Chinese data failed to lift optimism, as the ever-present gloom of rising virus infections and deaths also continues to dampen the mood on trading floors as dealers fret over the re-imposition of containment measures in key economies.

Elsewhere, a top aide to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that the lawmaker had spoken for a second straight day with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over a long-deadlocked but much-anticipated stimulus package to rescue the battered US economy.

The pair have agreed to continue negotiating, raising hopes they could break a months-long impasse.

Key figures around 1030 GMT

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 5,883.59 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.6 percent at 12,747.03

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.6 percent at 4,804.37

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,192.69

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.5 percent at 23,185.12 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.8 percent at 23,459.05 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,218.05 (close)

New York – Dow Jones: DOWN 0.5 percent at 27,452.66 (close Tuesday)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2822 from $1.2863 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 91.37 pence from 91.30 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1716 from $1.1744

Dollar/yen: UP at 105.69 yen from 105.66 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.2 percent at $38.81 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.6 percent at $40.37 per barrel

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First man cured of HIV dies of cancer

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Timothy Ray Brown (right) with partner Tim Hoeffgen in home hospice in Palm Springs, 27 September 2020. (AFP photo)
PARISFrance — The first person to be cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown — known as the “Berlin Patient” — has died after a battle with cancer, the International Aids Society (IAS) announced Wednesday.

Brown made medical history and became a  symbol of hope for the tens of millions of people living with the virus that causes AIDS when he was cured more than a decade ago.

He had been living with a recurrence of leukemia for several months and received hospice care at his home in Palm Springs, California.

“On behalf of all its members… the IAS sends its condolences to Timothy’s partner, Tim, and his family and friends,” said IAS President Adeeba Kamarulzaman.

“We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Hutter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible.”

Brown was diagnosed with HIV while was studying in Berlin in 1995. A decade later, he was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.

To treat his leukemia, his doctor at the Free University of Berlin used a stem cell transplant from a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that gave him natural resistance to HIV, hoping it may wipe out both diseases.

It took two painful and dangerous procedures, but it was a success: in 2008 Brown was declared free of the two ailments, and was initially dubbed “the Berlin Patient” at a medical conference to preserve his anonymity.

Two years later, he decided to break his silence and went on to become a public figure, giving speeches and interviews and starting his own foundation.

“I am living proof that there could be a cure for AIDS,” he told AFP in 2012. “It’s very wonderful, being cured of HIV.”

‘Champion’

Ten years after Brown was cured, a second HIV sufferer — dubbed “the London Patient” — was revealed to be in remission 19 months after undergoing a similar procedure.

The patient, Adam Castillejo, is currently HIV-free. In August a California woman was reported to have no traces of HIV despite not using anti-retroviral treatment.

It is thought she may be the first person to be cured of HIV without undergoing the risky bone marrow treatment.

Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the IAS and director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, praised Brown as a “champion and advocate” of a cure for HIV.

“It is the hope of the scientific community that one day we can honour his legacy with a safe, cost-effective and widely accessible strategy to achieve HIV remission and curs using gene edition or techniques that boost immune control,” she said.

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Serena withdraws from French Open with Achilles injury

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Serena Williams withdrew from the French Open on Wednesday ahead of her second round match with an Achilles injury, as the American’s bid for a 24th Grand Slam title suffered another blow.

The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, had arrived in Paris carrying an Achilles injury that prompted her to skip the Rome tune-up event.

“The Achilles didn’t have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams.

“I was struggling to walk and that is a tell-tale sign that I should try to recover.”

The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020 leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court’s all-time majors record.

“I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing,” she said. “It’s more than likely that I won’t play another tournament this year.”

Her decision to pull out handed Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova a walkover and left Williams searching for a first major since the last of her 23 titles at Melbourne in 2017.

Later on Wednesday, Rafael Nadal looks to build on a promising start to his quest to match Roger Federer’s 20 Slam titles when he plays American outsider Mackenzie McDonald.

Top seed and women’s favorite Simona Halep also puts her 15-match winning streak on the line as she targets another run at a second French Open crown in three years.

Nadal needs one more major to pull level with long-time rival Federer and owns an astonishing 94-2 record in Paris going back to his triumph on debut in 2005.

The Spaniard showed little trouble in handling the heavier conditions in his opening win over Egor Gerasimov at a tournament postponed four months by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the 34-year-old is wary of an untimely slip-up having made serene progress on his return to action in Rome before running aground in the quarter-finals.

Nadal on his guard

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said 12-time French Open winner Nadal, who touched down in Paris without a clay title to his name for the first time.

“I said in Rome when I played the first two matches well, I said, ‘Okay, don’t believe things are going to be like this.’

“I know how difficult are the comebacks. I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult. It’s normal, some up and downs.”

A first-time opponent again awaits Nadal in the 236th-ranked McDonald, whose lone tour win this season came against Yusutaka Uchiyama at Delray Beach in February.

With women’s defending champion Ashleigh Barty skipping the event over Covid-19 concerns, world number two Halep appears well set for a tilt at a third major.

She battles fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu on Court Suzanne Lenglen, having been spared the grim weather by playing under the new retractable roof in her opener.

Halep has won each of her past three tournaments, resuming the interrupted season with titles on clay in Prague and Rome following her victory at Dubai in February.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem plays American qualifier Jack Sock, a former top 10 player, in the second round while 2015 French Open winner Stan Wawrinka takes on Dominik Koepfer following his mauling of Andy Murray.

Third seed Elina Svitolina faces Renata Zarazua, Mexico’s first representative in the main draw of a Slam in 20 years, with Victoria Azarenka meeting Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Alexander Zverev, the runner-up to Thiem in New York, will go up against Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the final match scheduled on Court Philippe Chatrier.

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