Commentary

Borg spends birthday extolling Nadal

Rafael Nadal is one match away from joining Bjorn Borg as the only players to win four straight French Open titles. And the great Swede believes much more is to come.

Updated: June 6, 2008, 5:34 PM ET
By Sandra Harwitt | Special to ESPN.com

How did Bjorn Borg, a record six-time French Open champion, celebrate his 52nd birthday on Friday?

He spent the afternoon watching Rafael Nadal working toward his quest to become the first man since the Swedish superstar to score four successive French Open titles, which he accomplished between 1978 and 1981.

After Nadal nailed down a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (3) semifinal win over reigning Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, Borg expressed only admiration for the Spanish sensation who has never lost a match at Roland Garros.

Nadal improved his French Open record to an unblemished 27 consecutive victories after disposing of Djokovic.

"I think he's going to win many more French Opens," Borg said. "He is 22 years old, and if he has the motivation and stays away from injuries, he's going to win many more Grand Slams, especially the French Open."

In six matches played here this year, Nadal has yet to surrender a set -- he also reached the final last year without dropping a set until going four with Roger Federer in the final.

Nadal's 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 win over countryman Nicolas Almagro earlier this week was the most one-sided quarterfinal at the French Open in the Open era.

Borg, who won 11 Grand Slam titles, is the only man in the Open era to reach the French Open final more than once without dropping a set -- he achieved that feat in 1978, 1980 and 1981. He captured the title twice by going through the draw without losing a set, beating Guillermo Vilas in a lopsided 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 final in 1978 and the late Vitas Gerulaitis 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in 1980.

Bombarded about questions regarding Bjorn Borg throughout the tournament, Nadal admitted to being flattered and humbled by the similarities that are being raised after winning his quarterfinal match.

"Now, comparing myself to Borg, I mean, how could I dare do that?" asked Nadal, who said he did not spot Borg sitting in the President's box Saturday. "He was one of the top three players in all the history of tennis. Thank you very much. That's very kind of you comparing me to such a huge player."

Although Borg was chatting before Federer and France's favorite son, Gael Monfils, were on court for their semifinal, he was confident that fans could anticipate a third straight Federer-Nadal final.

"I think Roger will beat Monfils and on Sunday it's going to be a very long and close match," said Borg, going about as far as he was willing to go when asked if Federer would ever win the one Grand Slam title he's missing on his very distinguished résumé.

Sandra Harwitt is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.

Sandra Harwitt is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.