Andy Murray believes a “relaxed” Rafael Nadal is in a strong position to end the clay-court season with a 14th French Open title.
The Spaniard has started the season 16-0, with his Australian Open triumph in January pulling him one clear in the men’s Grand Slam singles race with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Nadal is currently playing at Indian Wells – and faces Briton Dan Evans on Monday night – but he will sit out the Miami Open, meaning the 35-year-old will soon turn his attention to the clay swing.
Meanwhile, Djokovic is absent from the ATP 1000 events in the US, and he will play wherever he is allowed before he bids to defend his French Open title – with the Serbian now seemingly free to play at Roland Garros after France relaxed its rules surrounding Covid vaccine passports.
The duo will be the pair to beat on clay, and Murray – who will not play on the surface this year as he targets a deep run at Wimbledon – believes it is currently advantage Nadal.
“As it stands today, I would have to put Rafa as being the favourite to potentially win the French Open again,” Murray said.
“Novak’s obviously had very little competitive tennis for a period, and Rafa’s obviously started the year extremely well, and he’s maybe in a position he even said he was not expecting himself to be in, even a few months ago.
“So he probably feels like quite relaxed and maybe a little bit less pressure than was on him a couple of the last couple of French Opens, for example.
“I wouldn’t count Novak out, for sure, but it’s not going to be easy because he’s obviously missed quite a lot of tennis.”
Djokovic looks likely to compete at the Monte Carlo Masters from April 9-17, and could also play at his home Belgrade Open event, with an ATP 500 in Barcelona and two more Masters tournaments in Madrid and Rome to follow before the French Open, which starts on May 22.
Nadal won Barcelona and Rome before losing the French Open semi-final to Djokovic, who was victorious in Belgrade before winning at Roland Garros, where he Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.