Rafael Nadal may be ‘half a step slower’ than before going into Roland Garros claims former Champion Boris Becker.
Nadal is aiming for his 14th Roland Garros title, an incredible level of success and domination at one Major that is unmatched by any other player. If he wins it, he will break the record for the most Grand Slam singles titles by any male player with 21.
However, six-time Grand Slam Champion Boris Becker believes that there have been signs that Nadal’s domination may not be what it once was in the lead up to this years French Open.
Nadal started his clay campaign at Monte-Carlo, a tournament he has won 11 times before, but was defeated in the quarter-final by Andrey Rublev. He followed that up with a successful return to Barcelona winning his 12th title.
The Spaniard then lost in the quarter-final of the Madrid Masters to eventual winner Alexander Zverev, but went on to claim his 10th Rome Masters title beating Novak Djokovic in the final.
For most, winning two clay warm-up events leading into Roland Garros would be considered a success, however Becker believes its a sign that things are changing for Nadal.
“Normally you would say: ‘Nadal has won three out of four clay court tournaments.’ That didn’t happen this year,” Becker told Eurosport.
“He won a smaller tournament with Barcelona and now finally Rome – Stefano Tsitsipas won in Monte-Carlo and Sascha Zverev in Madrid.
“You have to say quite clearly that the other players have caught up a bit there – or the other way around: Nadal will be 35 years old at the beginning of June. There is no tournament that is physically more demanding than Roland-Garros.
Although Nadal won the Rome Masters, he had some tight games and close-calls along the way specifically against younger players Jannik Sinner and Denis Shapovalov, but managed to fight his way through.
“Maybe it’s already the first sign of the times with Nadal that he’s half a step slower or gets tired a little faster than before.
“In the end, you can also see that in the results: He also had a hard time in Rome and Barcelona. You don’t know that from Nadal like that.”
Nadal will face Alexei Popyrin in the first round of Roland Garros and has been given a tough draw with both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the same half.
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