Mats Wilander feels Rafael Nadal could be vulnerable at this year’s French Open but expects the Spaniard to emerge victorious and write his name into the history books.
Nadal heads to Paris seeking a 21st Grand Slam title, but his form on his favoured clay is not as strong as it has been in recent years.
The 34-year-old suffered surprise defeats in Monte Carlo and Madrid, but did secure title successes in Barcelona and Rome.
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Nadal claimed a confidence-boosting victory over Novak Djokoivc in the final in Rome, but Wilander feels some of the youngsters could test the Spanish great.
“I am a little concerned with Rafa but he obviously goes in as the favourite,” Wilander told Eurosport. “I’m not sure Rafa is as strong as he has been previously coming into a tournament.
Last year was the easiest Roland Garros he has won, I have a feeling that he will win it, for sure. But I have a feeling that there are enough young guys that are going to take a chunk out of his confidence by overpowering him, even though Rafa will still eventually come out on top.
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“In the end, though, I think it will take something away from his confidence, and if you can do that then in the final against a Djokovic or a [Stefanos] Tsitsipas there is a slight chance they can make a dent.”
A 14th success in Paris would take Nadal beyond Roger Federer to 21 Grand Slams. Wilander feels only Djokovic - who has 18 Majors - is capable of getting to that number.
“It will be unbelievable if Rafa can win his 14th title at Roland Garros, an amazing record that will never be beaten,” Wilander said. “If he gets to 21, there’s most probably one human being that has the chance to overtake him and that’s Novak Djokovic because I don’t believe we will ever have a situation where someone will win 21 Majors. I know we said that about Pete Sampras – on 14 – but now we are in the definitely-no territory.
“I don’t believe an 18-year-old will show up and just be beating everyone – it’s possible – but I don’t think it’ll happen with the way the game is heading with bigger and bigger hitters, and bigger serves. I just think it will be impossible to be that consistent.
“I think it is an absolutely massive opportunity for Nadal to make history.”
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