Is Rafael Nadal’s prowess on clay starting to wane? Boris Becker believes ‘he’s half a step slower’

French Open
Rafael Nadal in full flow

Rafael Nadal starts the 2021 French Open as clear favourite as he is gunning for a record-extending 14th title, but Boris Becker warns that age might finally be catching up to the king of clay.

Twenty-time major winner Nadal heads to Roland Garros having won the Italian Open and the Barcelona Open, but he will be the first to admit that he has not dominated the warm-up events like in previous years he lost in the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo and Madrid.

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Although he is not writing off the Spaniard’s chances of lifting the French Open trophy this year, Becker does believe that the gap between Nadal and the rest have closed.

“Normally you would say: ‘Nadal has won three out of four clay court tournaments,” he told Eurosport.

“That didn’t happen this year. He won a smaller tournament with Barcelona and now finally Rome – Stefano Tsitsipas won in Monte-Carlo and Sascha Zverev in Madrid.

“You have to say quite clearly that the other players have caught up a bit there – or the other way around: Nadal will be 35 years old at the beginning of June.

“There is no tournament that is physically more demanding that Roland-Garros.

“Maybe it’s already the first sign of the times with Nadal that he’s half a step slower or gets tired a little faster than before. In the end, you can also see that in the results.”

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