French Open 2021 - Boris Becker on chinks in Rafael Nadal’s armour, Novak Djokovic’s preparation and women’s favourite
Becker believes the women’s draw is as open as ever but also that for the first time in ages Rafael Nadal might be vulnerable. The German is intrigued by the preparation by Novak Djokovic and thinks that Roger Federer needs to use Roland Garros as a chance to get sharpness ahead of the grass court season.
Boris Becker analysiert: So muss Thiem gegen Nadal spielen, um eine Chance zu haben!
“Normally you would say: 'Nadal has won three out of four clay court tournaments.'” Becker says.
“That didn't happen this year. He won a smaller tournament with Barcelona and now finally Rome - Stefano Tsitsipas won in Monte-Carlo and Sascha Zverev in Madrid.
Nadal beats Djokovic to capture tenth Rome Masters title
“You have to say quite clearly that the other players have caught up a bit there - or the other way around: Nadal will be 35 years old at the beginning of June.
There is no tournament that is physically more demanding than Roland-Garros.
“Maybe it's already the first sign of the times with Nadal that he's half a step slower or gets tired a little faster than before. In the end, you can also see that in the results.”
One of the favourites behind Nadal is current world number one Novak Djokovic, who Becker believes has had a unique preparation period.
'Press conferences are part of the sport' - Djokovic on Osaka stance
Djokovic isn’t in Paris yet as he is playing in his native Serbia in the Belgrade Open and Becker was intrigued.
“He has changed his tournament schedule this year. The tournament in Belgrade is organized by his brother. Maybe it's a kind of family support to play there - then I could understand it.
“Nevertheless, it is unusual because the top players are usually already in Paris the week before Roland-Garros and prepare for the tournament on site.
Whether this unusual way was right, we will only see when he has played the first round in Paris and hopefully won.
As for the other side of the draw Becker has a hard time picking a winner, such is the open nature of the women’s tour. The last seven years have seen seven different winners.
“I would start with Ashleigh Barty, who is playing another very strong and consistent year and has already won in Miami and Stuttgart.” Becker says.
“Then, of course, I have Iga Swiatek on the bill, who comes to Paris as the defending champion, and has already won in Rome.
Naomi Osaka Top 5: Best shots from the champion at the 2021 Australian Open
“Personally, I also like the game of Aryna Sabalenka very much. Even though clay is not her strongest surface, she can play well there.
“Naomi Osaka is always a force to be reckoned with, even though clay is certainly her weakest surface, and she hasn't delivered the best results there yet this year.”
Of course all eyes will also be on the final member of the men’s Big Three, with Roger Federer set to return to action.
Becker says that Federer “can't have the expectation to be one of the favourites for Paris”, and adds that If the Swiss is going to win another Grand Slam it will have to be at Wimbledon so Roland Garros is a great chance to get games under his belt.
“Roger simply needs matches, matches, matches. I hope he gets into the second week at Roland-Garros.
“Then I'm convinced that he'll play a grass court tournament before Wimbledon in Halle.
The fact that the distance to Wimbledon is now a week shorter won't bother him.
“It's more of an advantage to know you're going into a tournament every week and then hopefully arrive at Wimbledon in your best shape.