World number one Rafael Nadal thinks that Briton Andy Murray has it in him to win the French Open, ahead of their semi-final clash at Roland Garros on Friday.
Murray, who is seeded seventh for the tournament, progressed to the last four when he completed a thrilling five-set victory over Frenchman Gael Monfils in fading light on Wednesday evening.
The 27-year-old has never managed to defeat Nadal on clay, and he was beaten by the Spaniard in his only previous semi-final at the French Open in 2011, when he lost in three sets to the eight-time champion.
But Nadal, who set up the meeting with the Wimbledon champion by beating David Ferrer in four sets in a repeat of last year’s final, feels that he is in for a tough match against the two-time Grand Slam winner.
“Andy’s a candidate to win Roland Garros,” Nadal told reporters. “To play against Andy is always a big challenge. I really like him as a person and I think he’s a great guy.
“It is great to have him back playing at his top level again and in the semi-final of a Grand Slam after an injury. I am happy for him because he deserves it and he was playing much better in Rome. I had a very, very tough match against him.
“Andy can play really well on clay and there’s nothing in his game that would prevent him from playing really well on clay. He’s gone really deep in the tournament several times here.”
The last match between the pair came at the Rome Masters in May, where Nadal took victory in three sets, though it was seen as a turning point in what had been a disappointing start to the year for Murray.
Murray’s record at Roland Garros that Nadal was referring to reads four runs to the quarter-finals, two of which he has won, and the Scot is now just one match away from his first final.
Should Murray defeat Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier, he will become only the second player to ever defeat the Mallorcan at the second Grand Slam of the year, with his only previous loss at the tournament being a shock defeat to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.
Nadal’s win-loss record at the tournament in Paris is a staggering 64-1, and he holds the record for the number of French Open titles and number of victories at a Grand Slam by any male player.
The “King of Clay” is looking forward to playing in warmer conditions than in his previous match against Ferrer, after the rain that delayed play on Wednesday has dried out.
“When it’s sunny and drier, then the balls move faster. Generally, it’s more positive for me in this case.”
Friday’s encounter will be the 20th match between the two players, and Nadal leads their head-to-head battles with a 14-5 advantage.
Their meeting in Rome was the first time they had played out a match against each other since October 2011 at the Japan Open in Tokyo, which was won by Murray, and the British number one was given a walkover at the Miami Masters in 2012 in their only scheduled match in between.
The match is listed to be played second on Chatrier, after the other semi-final between Latvian Ernests Gulbis and 2012 finalist Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
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