Andy Murray gives verdict on Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic chances at French Open

Novak Djokovic reacts to his recent media coverage

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Andy Murray has weighed in on the next instalment of the Grand Slam race at the French Open. The 2016 runner-up will not be playing the clay-court season this year, and will instead undergo a training block with former coach Ivan Lendl in Miami. Rafael Nadal will have the chance to extend his record to 22 Grand Slam titles while Novak Djokovic will be hoping to tie his rival on 21 at Roland Garros this year.

Djokovic was recently given the green light to compete in the French Open after the country dropped their vaccine pass rules on Monday, which previously meant unvaccinated individuals couldn’t enter sporting venues, and tournament director Amelie Mauresmo said on Wednesday: “As things stand, nothing stands in the way of Novak Djokovic taking part in French Open.” It will be his first Grand Slam tournament since losing the US Open final to Daniil Medvedev last year as he was deported from the country on the eve of the Australian Open and unable to try and defend his title.

In his absence, Nadal went on to win a record 21st Grand Slam title, surpassing Djokovic and Federer who are still tied on 20 – and is the favourite to extend his lead at the French Open as a 13-time former champion. The Spaniard suffered a shock defeat to the world No 2 in the semi-final last year in what ended up being the start of his foot injury struggles that saw Nadal forced to end his season in August.

Fellow Big Four member Murray, who in his prime enjoyed an intense rivalry with Djokovic and Nadal, has now had his say on who believes will come out on top at Roland Garros, and while he’s leaning towards the tournament’s most decorated winner in history, he has refused to rule out the Serb.

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“As it stands today, I would have to put Rafa as being the favourite to potentially win the French Open again,” the former world No 1 said after crashing out of Indian Wells to Alexander Bublik. “Novak’s obviously had very little competitive tennis for a period, and Rafa’s obviously started the year extremely well, and he’s maybe in a position he even said he was not expecting himself to be in, even a few months ago.”

Nadal spent six months on the sidelines, undergoing a medical procedure, and has now won every tournament he has completed so far in 2022: the Melbourne ATP 250, the Australian Open and the Acapulco ATP 500. He is currently undefeated, having started his season with a career-best 17-0 streak, and now finds himself in the last 16 in Indian Wells. With his comeback proving so successful already, Murray thought it would take the pressure off the Spaniard at his most successful tournament.

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“So he probably feels quite relaxed and maybe a little bit less pressure than [what] was on him [for] the last couple of French Opens, for example,” the three-time Grand Slam champion continued. Murray lost his only French Open final to Djokovic in 2016 in what was the Serb’s first-ever title on the Parisian clay, so knows how strong the two-time champion could be at Roland Garros.

“I wouldn’t count Novak out, for sure, but it’s not going to be easy because he’s obviously missed quite a lot of tennis,” Murray added. Djokovic has already put his name down for two clay-court tournaments after being unable to play Indian Wells and Miami over his unvaccinated status. The suspension of French vaccine pass rules also allows him to compete in the Monte Carlo Masters, opening the clay swing on April 10, and he was recently confirmed for the Serbia Open in his own Novak Tennis Centre in his hometown of Belgrade where he reached the semi-final last year.

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