Tennis

Mats Wilander exclusive: Novak Djokovic can beat Nadal at French Open

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Former world No.1 and seven-time Grand Slam winner Mats Wilander believes Novak Djokovic has the beating of Rafael Nadal ahead of the French Open.

The Spaniard has well and truly returned to his best after a long-standing knee injury threatened to end a glorious career prematurely. Nadal announced his comeback at Roland Garros last year, taking the title for the eighth time, beating Djokovic in four sets.

However, Nadal's dominance on clay has started to dwindle and the current world No.1 lost to Djokovic on his favoured clay surface at the Rome Masters last week.

Wilander, who himself has won the French Open three times, says the Serbian has to be favourite to beat Nadal, who is looking more and more tired.

Speaking exclusively to GiveMeSport, Wilander said: "I think what we have noticed in the last year, [Nadal] came back in an unbelievable way, but he is looking a little tired now.

"Maybe he came back too quickly from the injury he got in 2012. He may have also lost a little bit of confidence over the hard-court season in the US. You can see the lasting effect.

"Nadal with less confidence can be as dangerous, but I think you would have to put Djokovic as the favourite, because the last two times they have met [at Roland Garros], Nadal has got lucky."

But Wilander believes that the second Grand Slam of the season won't just be about the big names. He can see some of the younger stars challenging for the title as well. In fact he believes the next big tennis star is just around the corner.

He continued: "Kei Nishikori is a threat; Grigor Dimitrov may be an even bigger threat, even on clay.

"I wouldn't say Nishikori will be the next world No.1 because I really do not know where he is at, but Dimitrov is someone we can rely on to push the game forward both commercially and on the court."

While Djokovic and Nadal remain heavy favourites on the men's side of the draw, WIlander believes the ladies draw could be much more open, depending on the form and fitness of Serena Williams. The Swede has tipped up-and-coming star Simona Halep to challenge for the title.

"She is fresh and full of confidence," Wilander said of the Romanian.

"No one really knows her that well - the top players included - but she is a winner.

"But the women's outcome will depend on the match-ups and on the conditions. We all know that the French conditions vary a lot, depending on whether it is hot, humid or rainy.

"The women's draw is open, until we see Serena step on the court and appear healthy, then she becomes the overwhelming favourite to win any tour she enters into."

The French Open starts on May 25.

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Topics:
Tennis
Novak Djokovic
French Open
Rafael Nadal

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