Mats Wilander believes Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are more vulnerable to the threat from younger players every year and predicts Jannik Sinner can take the Roland Garros title.
Rafael Nadal, who will turn 35 next week and Novak Djokovic, who is 34-years-old, are both going into Roland Garros hoping to break records.
If Nadal wins his 14th French Open title, he will take the overall record for the most Grand Slams singles titles in the men’s game with 21. If Djokovic wins, he will become the first player to ever win multiple titles at all four Grand Slams.
Although the pair are the clear favourites for the tournament, former player and seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander thinks there are real threats coming from the younger players, and one in particular.
“I actually think Jannik Sinner can win it,” Wildander said. “The weird thing is I don’t think Musetti can but they’re from the same country.
“I do think there is a chance because I think that Novak and Rafa are more vulnerable every year not in terms of losing necessarily but more vulnerable because the younger guys are hitting the ball so hard most of them on both sides.
“They have big serves and I think they are taking a little bit of Rafa’s and Novak’s confidence away from them, leaving Roger, Rafa and Novak with the only ammunition left which is the experience of playing five sets.
“I think that’s their strength and that’s the difference between the players today is that they know how to play five sets and the others do not.”
At the recent Rome Masters, it was Nadal and Djokovic who saw off all opposition to make the final, but both players did experience more than one considerable threat along the way.
Nadal had to fend off serious challenges from Jannik Sinner and Denis Shapovalov who both broke the Nadal serve several times. Meanwhile Djokovic was taken to three set matches against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lorenzo Sonego.
Wilander believes that these continual challenges coming from several younger players will ultimately chip away at the confidence of the tennis legends.
“I do think there is a chance that the younger players take a chunk out of Nadal’s confidence in one match and that could be first round second round and Nadal doesn’t look quite as good because he won in four sets maybe a tie break, and then he plays another match and now he’s being bullied around again and he wins in four again.
“Pretty easy score again but he doesn’t dominate any easy matches before the finals and suddenly he is there with less confidence than when he started.
“I think that’s been Rafa strength over the years he’s been so dominant and his confidence grows with each match.
“I think you can see that in Barcelona and in Rome against Shapovalov for example. How does that guy win Rome when he was match point down against Shapovalov? Because he’s Rafa Nadal.
“But they think they can beat him and that’s why I think if they can beaten then there is now an opportunity for someone like Jannik Sinner to win.
“Are the chances big? No. But nor were the chances when I won,” said Wilander who was once the youngest male Grand Slam Champion winning the French Open aged just 17 years and 9 months.
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