Nadal still French Open favourite

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Rafael Nadal remains “number one favourite” for Roland Garros, rival Novak Djokovic said Monday, despite saying the Spaniard’s last-eight exit at the Italian Open showed he can be beaten on clay.

Nadal, a 12-time Roland Garros winner, lost in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open to world number 15 Diego Schwartzman.

“Even though he lost this week, I still think, a lot of people will agree, he’s the number one favourite and, the record that he has there, the history of his results, you just can’t put anybody in front of him,” said Djokovic.

World number one Djokovic beat Argentine Schwartzman 7-5, 6-3 in Monday’s final to win a fifth Rome title, and a record 36th Masters crown to move one better than Nadal.

“But, you know, definitely Diego showed that Nadal is beatable on clay,” added the Serb.

Conditions in Roland Garros could also have an impact, with the tournament pushed back to autumn because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nadal “prefers high bounces, that it is hot, that the ball goes fast,” said Djokovic, the French Open champion in 2016.

“So let’s see. It’s going to be interesting. I think even though he’s the number one favourite, I think there are players that can win against him there.”

Meanwhile, world number two Simona Halep said Monday that she was worried about the coronavirus situation in Paris after hearing that a female player had tested positive during qualifying at Roland Garros.

“I heard before the match and, of course, it worries me,” said Halep after winning her first Italian Open title after defending champion Karolina Pliskova retired injured while trailing 6-0, 2-1 in the final.

“But I’m sure that measures will take place there, and we will be safe enough to be okay to play and to be safe.”

A statement from French Open organisers did not name the player but explained she would quarantine for seven days, adding that five other players suffered the same fate the day before.

With world number one Ashleigh Barty electing not to defend her French title because of the virus, Halep will be the highest ranked player in the tournament and a favourite to win her second French Open title.*AFP

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