Commentary

Borg believes Nadal the one to beat at French and Wimbledon

Now that Rafael Nadal has successfully defended his Monte Carlo title, the focus begins to turn toward the French Open. And Bjorn Borg believes Nadal is the favorite to win not only Roland Garros, but also Wimbledon.

Originally Published: April 28, 2008
By Ravi Ubha | Special to ESPN.com

Bjorn Borg made a habit of winning the French Open and Wimbledon in succession, doing it three times. The iconic Swede is backing Rafael Nadal to achieve the feat this year.

Nadal began his clay-court campaign impressively, not dropping a set at the Monte Carlo Masters last week and downing Roger Federer in yesterday's final for a fourth straight title. He's seeking a fourth straight title at the French Open, too, having never been taken to a fifth set at Roland Garros.

"Nadal looks extremely confident, extremely strong on the clay even right now, so that's definitely the guy to beat for Paris,'' Borg, the last man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back, in 1980, told ESPN.com. "If he's as good as he looks right now and is going to continue, and stay away from injuries and be motivated as he is right now, it's going to be tough to beat him at the French.''

[+] EnlargeRafael Nadal
AP Photo/Anja NiedringhausRafael Nadal hopes to become the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open-Wimbledon double.
Nadal and Federer -- who ended the world No. 2's record 81-match winning streak on clay in May 2007 in Hamburg, Germany, where conditions differ from those in Paris -- have come close to emulating Borg the past two years.

Nadal, most would agree, was unfortunate to not win Wimbledon in July 2007. He was defeated by the Swiss in the final in five enthralling sets, after squandering a slew of break points early in the fifth. Borg was there watching.

The 2006 final, in which Federer toppled Nadal in four sets, might have been closer than the score indicated, even with a bagel in the opening frame.

And Federer hasn't been able to dethrone Nadal at the French, losing two finals in a row, both in four sets.

Borg suggested post-Wimbledon 2007 that Nadal would go one better this season and is sticking with his prediction.

"If he can survive the first two or three rounds at Wimbledon, I still pick Nadal,'' Borg said. "The final last year was unbelievable, and he was a little bit unlucky not to win.''

In addition, it seems more doom and gloom surround Federer this year than in years past. He is coming off a bout of mono, took five tournaments to win his first title and needed a Houdini-like escape to simply reach the third round in Monte Carlo, rallying from 5-1 down in the third set against Spanish journeyman Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. He did, however, produce stunning tennis to oust nemesis David Nalbandian in the quarterfinals. He advanced to the final when Novak Djokovic retired in the semis.

Federer, Borg said, has a realistic chance of winning the French until 2010.

Federer is trying for a 13th Grand Slam title, which would put him one behind men's leader Pete Sampras, who never got past the final four in Paris.

"I think he's going to improve his game, and I'm not going to be surprised if he's going to be the winner of the French Open, but you have Djokovic and a lot of other players,'' Borg said. "I definitely think Roger is going to win more Grand Slam tournaments. It depends on the motivation and if he can stay away from injuries. But if he wants to, deep inside, wants to stay around for many more years, he can do that.''

Djokovic, who complained of dizziness against Federer in Monte Carlo, was in better condition in Australia, conquering athletic Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for his first major and knocking off Federer along the way. Borg forecasts a rosy future for the third-ranked Serb.

"He's playing unbelievable,'' Borg said. "He's only 20, he can play on all the surfaces, and he's only going to get better. Who knows, at the end of the year, he could be the No. 1 player in the world. It's going to be interesting to see what he's going to do at the French and Wimbledon. He really believes in himself, that he can win the French and Wimbledon.''

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.