Nadal no longer 'immovable' object in Paris, says Courier

Mon May 18, 2015 7:14pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Nine-times French Open champion Rafa Nadal will no longer be regarded as an "immovable obstacle" at Roland Garros this year, according to twice former winner Jim Courier.

The American, who ruled the claycourt grand slam in 1991 and 1992, has watched the Spaniard's increasing vulnerability on the red dust with interest in the build-up to the year's second grand slam which begins in Paris on Sunday.

While Courier believes the best-of-five-set format means Nadal remains formidable, he makes world number one Novak Djokovic favorite followed by Japan's Kei Nishikori.

"For the first time in many years Nadal will not be the favorite going into Roland Garros," Courier, who will commentate on the tournament for British channel ITV, said.

"That role is now firmly occupied by Novak Djokovic. Nadal is less vulnerable in Paris, given the best of five-set format which allows him more time to problem solve but there are now guys in the locker room who see him as an opportunity rather than an immovable obstacle."

Nadal was beaten by Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters, following his defeat by Andy Murray in the Madrid Masters final the week before.

The 28-year-old Spaniard also lost to Djokovic in Monte Carlo and has looked nowhere near the player who has lost only one match at Roland Garros in 10 years of domination.

Djokovic, beaten in last year's final by Nadal, has been in electrifying form and after beating Roger Federer to win the Rome title on Sunday looks to have a golden opportunity to complete his career grand slam.   Continued...

Drops of sweat fall from Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain as he serves to Roger Federer of Switzerland during their men's singles semi-final match at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic