READY FOR ROLAND GARROS
Nadal says struggling Briton is still contender for French Open
WORLD No 1 Andy Murray will be ready for Roland Garros despite his poor recent form, nine-time French Open champion Rafa Nadal believes.
Nadal has won all three clay competitions this season while Murray struggled in Madrid and Monte Carlo and lost out in the semi-finals in Barcelona.
Since the start of the year, Murray has won just one of seven tournaments but Nadal is confident the Briton will be prepared for the French Open, which starts at the end of the month.
“He’s a great player, unbelievable player,” said Nadal after booking his spot in the last 16 of the Italian Open on Wednesday.
“He will be ready for Roland Garros. He has one week and a half to practice, and he will be one of the candidates (for the title).”
Former World No 1 Nadal also said that being at the top had no impact on a players’ performance but tiredness could play a role.
“I don’t think being No 1 affects on play... I don’t see a reason why. But at the same time, it’s so difficult to be on the top of your game and mentality for every week,” Nadal said.
“He had an unbelievable year last year, winning almost all the matches... and that’s tough. Physically, mentally, it’s tough to do what he did at the end of his season.”
Nadal eased into the last-16 of the Italian Open on Tuesday when his second-round opponent Nicolas Almagro retired after sustaining a knee injury early in the first set.
Nadal, who is the clear tournament favourite and looks to be back to his best form on clay this season, raced into a 3-0 lead before Spanish compatriot Almagro felt his left knee with less than half an hour played.
Nadal is seeded fourth in Rome, where he is bidding for a record eighth title to go with his recent successes in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, and will meet American Jack Sock in the next round after he beat Jiri Vesely.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the number seven seed, beat Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2 earlier in the day and will face Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in the last 16.
Third seed Stan Wawrinka avenged his defeat by unpredictable Frenchman Benoit Paire in Madrid last week when the 2015 French Open champion won a topsy-turvy match 6-3 1-6 6-3.
Austrian dark horse Dominic Thiem, runner-up to Nadal in Madrid, beat Pablo Cuevas 76(4), 6-4 to line up a last-16 clash against big-serving American Sam Querrey. Reuters
Andy Murray struggled in Madrid and Monte Carlo and bowed out in the semi-finals in Barcelona.