Legends back Nadal for 4th French title

Bjorn Borg believes Rafael Nadal will storm into the history books at the French Open and join him as the only man to rack up four Roland Garros titles.

updated: May 25, 2008 06:45 IST
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Bjorn Borg believes Rafael Nadal will storm into the history books at the French Open and join him as the only man to rack up four successive Roland Garros titles.

Borg, who performed the feat from 1978-1981, is not the only former champion expecting another Paris cruise for the formidable 21-year-old Spaniard.

Nadal's compatriot Carlos Moya believes that, barring injury, his countryman already has his name on the Coupe des Mousquetaires for the fourth time.

"Nadal looks extremely confident, extremely strong on the clay even right now, so that's definitely the guy to beat for Paris," Borg told ESPN.

"If he's as good as he looks right now and is going to continue, and stay away from injuries and be motivated, it's going to be tough to beat him at the French."

Moya, the French Open champion in 1998, believes Nadal, with 108 wins in his last 110 claycourt matches, has both the physical and mental edge over his rivals including Federer whom he has beaten in eight of their nine meetings on the surface.

"You have to concentrate," Moya said. "You just have to survive all the problems that come at you, it's like tennis's equivalent of a marathon.

"Mentally Nadal is unbelievable, he copes very well with the pressure. I think if he is 100 percent fit no one can beat him over five sets on clay. If he is fine in body and mind, I don't see anyone beating him."

Rome Masters and Australian Open champion Djokovic, the world number three, who lost a nail-biting three-hour semi-final to Nadal in Hamburg last week, refuses to attach great significance to recent problems suffered by the world's top two.

Federer is enduring one of his most disappointing seasons with just the Estoril title to show for his efforts; he has also lost the Monte Carlo and Hamburg finals - both on clay - to Nadal.

Nadal, too, has shown a degree of fraility, suffering badly from blisters in a second round loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero in Rome before needing treatment to a calf injury in the Hamburg final where he had trailed 1-5 in the first set.

"They're professional, and they're humans as all we are. It's normal to lose the first round, second round after so many years of dominance," said the Serbian who turns 21 on Thursday (May 22).

"All I can say is that mentally they're struggling because, you know, there is so much pressure and so much expectation that they have to be in the final on every surface and in every tournament that they play."

Federer, about to play his 10th Roland Garros, recognises Nadal's strengths, but refuses to give up his quest of a French Open title, a mission which proved even beyond the likes of Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg.

"Rafa's a more complete player. He's still young and improving. That's why it's important just for him to play compact and tough," said Federer.

"He brings that day in and day out on clay. For him it's just so natural and it makes it hard for the other players to beat him."