NADAL SET FOR FRENCH OPEN-WIM­BLE­DON COMBO

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PARIS: Rafa Nadal says win­ning a French OpenWim­ble­don dou­ble for the third time in his ca­reer will be “com­pli­cated” but is highly mo­ti­vated to have a go as he pre­pares for the grass­court sea­son.

The 31-year-old cap­tured an un­prece­dented 10th Roland Gar­ros ti­tle in sen­sa­tional style on Sun­day, thrash­ing Switzer­land’s Stan Wawrinka in the fi­nal af­ter a fault­less fort­night in Paris.

It main­tained a re­turn to form and fit­ness for the Spa­niard who also reached the Aus­tralian Open fi­nal at the start of the year and who climbed to num­ber two in the rank­ings yes­ter­day - his high­est mark since 2014, since when he has of­ten been bat­tling in­juries.

In­evitably thoughts are al­ready turn­ing to Wim­ble­don and the prospect of Nadal re­peat­ing his 2008 and 2010 vic­to­ries - both of which fol­lowed hot on the heels of win­ning French ti­tles with­out drop­ping a set as he did this year.

Nadal, never one to fuel the hype, warned against in­stalling him as a favourite on the Wim­ble­don lawns where he has also lost three fi­nals; es­pe­cially as his re­cent record there is dis­mal.

“Since I have had prob­lems with my knee, since 2012, play­ing on grass has been very com­pli­cated for me,” Nadal, who lost only 35 games at Roland Gar­ros to be­come the first player to win the same grand slam ti­tle 10 times in the pro­fes­sional era, said.

“We’ll see how my knee be­haves. Play­ing on grass is very spe­cial. You need to play at a lower level. The body pos­ture is down. You have less sta­bil­ity.

“But keep in mind I played five fi­nals in Wim­ble­don. I like play­ing on grass. On grass, any­thing can hap­pen. I’m mo­ti­vated.”

Af­ter steam­rolling through the Euro­pean clay­court sea­son, com­pil­ing a win-loss record of 24-1 with ti­tles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid be­fore re­gain­ing his French Open crown, Nadal will spend a few days re­lax­ing at home in Mal­lorca be­fore play­ing in the Wim­ble­don warm-up at Queen’s Club.

Af­ter weeks spent on the bouncy red clay, it is a tough tran­si­tion and Nadal is well aware of the dan­gers hav­ing suf­fered early de­feats at Wim­ble­don to the likes of out­siders such as Steve Dar­cis, Lukas Rosol and Dustin Brown.

Since los­ing in the 2011 fi­nal to No­vak Djokovic he has not gone be­yond round four while last year he could not play be­cause of the left wrist in­jury that cur­tailed his French Open. He also pulled out in 2009 when his creak­ing knee pre­vented him from try­ing to de­fend his ti­tle.

“I could win the first two matches and then things could change,” Nadal, whose first grand slam ti­tle for three years took his to­tal to 15, said. “The fact is that the two first matches could be very dan­ger­ous.

“I need to feel strong, low, and have pow­er­ful legs to play well in Wim­ble­don. If I have pain in the knees then I know from ex­pe­ri­ence that it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble. If I am healthy and I am able to have the right prepa­ra­tion I’ll have my chances.

Nadal’s in­cred­i­ble form - he is 43-6 so far this sea­son - means there is also the strong pos­si­bil­ity of over­haul­ing Andy Mur­ray and end­ing the year as world num­ber one for the first time since 2013.

“Win­ning these kind of ti­tles, then you have chances to be­come any num­ber on the rank­ing. I don’t know. I am play­ing well. If I am able to keep play­ing well, why not?” he said.

“I am right now seeded No. 2. We will see what hap­pens dur­ing the rest of the year. It re­ally de­pends on me.” – Reuters

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

10 AND ONE: Rafa Nadal of Spain and Latvia’s Je­lena Ostapenko.

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