Nadal says strug­gling Bri­ton is still con­tender for French Open

New Straits Times - - Sport -

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.

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