Boris Becker’s tip to Novak Djokovic ahead of Rafael Nadal clash: ‘Go hard at the Spaniard’s forehand’

Rafael Nadal forehand

Boris Becker believes Novak Djokovic “has a realistic chance” of beating Rafael Nadal in the French Open semi-final as he urged the world No 1 to attack the 20-time Grand Slam winner’s “helicopter” forehand.

Djokovic and Nadal will meet for a 58th time at ATP Tour level when they square off at Roland Garros on Friday with the former leading the head-to-head 29-28.

Nadal, though, has won their last two meetings on clay, including a dominant 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 win in last year’s French Open final, but Becker is convinced he is not as strong as he was in 2020 and believes it would not be a big upset if Djokovic comes out on top.

“It is a repeat of the final we saw in last October’s displaced Roland Garros, but I will be very surprised if the outcome is the same comfortable win for Nadal,” he wrote in the Daily Mail.

“In my view Rafa played as well last year as he has ever done at this event, and I do not think you could say that this time.

“There have been a few vulnerabilities in his matches to this point.

“Jannik Sinner served for the first set against him, Cam Norrie caused some problems early in their second set, and on Wednesday Diego Schwartzman matched him until late in the third set before completely subsiding.

“All of them, understandably enough, will have felt intimidated by the aura he has created, but Djokovic is something different altogether.

“I would not go as far as to make him favourite, because this is all relative.

“Even when not at his peak on clay Nadal’s level is so high that he can afford to drop a bit and still be the best, but I do think Djokovic has a realistic chance.”

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal post-match

As for where Djokovic should attack Nadal, Becker feels the Serbian could get some joy if he puts pressure on the world No 3’s forehand.

He continued: “If I was still coaching him I would be suggesting he goes hard at the Spaniard’s forehand, which has not been at its most consistent in the previous rounds.

“Its ‘helicopter’ motion can produce unforced errors if he is pressed enough. Djokovic cannot afford to allow him time on it, so no half shots — Djokovic needs to go hard and flat and if he can do that then he can reap some rewards.

“Yet the most important battleground in these contests between two players who have met an incredible 57 times already is in the head.

“Another factor is how well Djokovic has recovered physically from what was a gruelling match, physically and emotionally, against Matteo Berrettini late on Wednesday night.

“That, and Nadal’s history, steers me away from calling this as an upset in the making, but the outcome is unsure.”

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