Tennis: Corretja tips Nadal to become first man to win 10 titles in the same Grand Slam

While Alex Corretja expects Rafa Nadal's key rivals to pick up pace, he feels his compatriot's solid form will be decisive.
While Alex Corretja expects Rafa Nadal's key rivals to pick up pace, he feels his compatriot's solid form will be decisive.

As Rafael Nadal chases his 10th Roland Garros crown, countryman Alex Corretja is sure that the King of Clay can become the first tennis player since the sport turned professional in 1968 to win 10 titles at the same Grand Slam.

Corretja, the tournament patron at this year's Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament, said: "He's playing very well, he's very aggressive and he's moving unbelievably well.

"It's still the beginning of the tournament so you need to be patient, but (Nadal) is in very good form and in a very good position (to win)."

The Spaniard, a two-time French Open runner-up in 1998 and 2001, was speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of the Longines Future Tennis Aces draw ceremony in Paris on Wednesday.

World No. 4 Nadal is in fine form, having reached the Australian Open final and winning his 10th titles in Barcelona and Monte Carlo. The swashbuckling southpaw last year added fellow Spaniard and former world No. 1 Carlos Moya to his coaching set-up, and Corretja believes this has benefited the 14-time Grand Slam winner.

"Rafa already has such a great team, but Carlos has been there on court and he knows what it takes to win and to be No. 1," he added. "It's always good to talk to someone in your team who has been there before."

Still, Corretja, 43, cautioned against underestimating Nadal's challengers. "The opponents will improve as the tournament goes on, and Rafa knows that better than anyone else," he said.

Men's world No. 1 Andy Murray and defending French Open champion Novak Djokovic, who between them won three of last year's four Grand Slams, may have had less-than-stellar results this year, but Corretja believes they will improve as the event progresses.

Murray, the top seed and last year's finalist, crashed out in the second round of last month's ATP Rome Masters, where he was the defending champion. The 30-year-old Scot also lost in the fourth round in Monte Carlo and Madrid, and in the semi-finals at Barcelona.

Djokovic has fared equally poorly. The Serb, who had five titles entering last year's French Open, has only won one title prior to this year's tournament.

Corretja, who used to coach Murray, cited the duo's intense battle for the top ranking last year as a possible reason for their dip in form.

Referring to Murray's ascension to the top of the men's rankings last November as an "unbelievable effort", the former world No. 2 said: "Together with Nole, both of them have tried their best to become the best and it wasn't easy - that's why they weren't as fresh as Rafa or Roger (Federer), who had taken some time off.

"But it was also good for (Djokovic and Murray) because it means they were fighting (to be) No. 1 and winning Grand Slams ... they look better now. I think they're going to get better and we'll see what happens in this tournament because I think they're going to play good tennis."

Murray beat Slovakia's Martin Klizan 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) yesterday to advance to the third round.

Nadal and Djokovic, both 30, will face Nikoloz Basilashvili and Diego Schwartzman in their respective third-round matches today. Asked who would lift the Musketeers' Trophy next Sunday, however, Corretja replied: "I hope Rafa."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2017, with the headline 'Corretja tips Rafa to be 1st to win 10 titles in a single Slam'. Print Edition | Subscribe