June 1, 2017
After Rafa Nadal’s superb display against Robin Haase, TV expert Mats Wilander, a former world number one, was prompted to say: ‘Nadal has more chance of winning the French Open than all his rivals put together.’
Is it true? If not, who is most likely to topple Nadal? Here are the men we think have the best shot at causing an upset at the French Open – if they make it through the first week!
1/ NOVAK DJOKOVIC
It’s not that the Serb has been playing out of his skin at Roland Garros so far. But he has always known how to feel his way into tournaments and save his best for the second week. And already his partnership with new coach Andre Agassi has created fresh momentum for Novak.
2/ STAN WAWRINKA
Assuming the unpredictable Swiss can safely negotiate the first week – never a given – he is more than a match for anyone on his day, and won’t make the mistake of showing Nadal too much respect during their match, if indeed they end up playing each other.
If it happens, this confrontation could be a truly explosive confrontation between two warriors of tennis.
3/ DOMINIC THIEM
The improving Austrian is already in round three at Roland Garros and he beat Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open recently, showing that if you show no fear against the dominant Spaniard, and match him for aggression, he is not entirely invincible, despite his incredible year on clay. Thiem is dangerous on his day.
4/ JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO
Delpo may be a gentle giant but once in his stride, he can match even the pugnacious Nadal for power. Whether or nor Del Potro can get past Andy Murray, should they meet earlier in the tournament, is somewhat open to doubt, though he is in better form than the Scot.
5/ ANDY MURRAY
A long shot. The world number one has been in such indifferent form that few would see Murray as capable of taking Nadal down on clay right now. But the Brit has his coach Ivan Lendl in his corner, and you never know when he might just find his best game again.
So there they are, in descending order, our top five contenders to take out Nadal and rob him of an amazing tenth French Open title.
It still seems unlikely that Nadal can be denied at his favourite Slam. But as we’ve pointed out before, it’s never easy when the weight of expectation is so great that your victory is regarded as a foregone conclusion.
And when you look at our five rivals for Nadal’s crown, with two of them, Djokovic and Wawrinka, recent French Open winners themselves, you start to realise that nothing is certain in our wonderful sport.
It will be fascinating to see how the tournament unfolds!
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