Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal Australian Open Roland Garros combo

Andy Murray backs Rafael Nadal to win French Open, but refuses to ‘count Novak Djokovic out’

Andy Murray believes Rafael Nadal is the favourite to win a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title, but refuses to rule Novak Djokovic out despite a severe lack of match action.

Grand Slam legends Nadal and Djokovic could not have had more starkly opposite starts to the new season.

21-time Slam champion Nadal has maintained his 100% winning record and is currently 17-0 for the season having won the Melbourne Summer Set, the Australian Open, and the Mexican Open.

This is made all the more impressive by Nadal returning from a six-month long injury lay-off and contracting Covid-19 during the off-season.

Meanwhile, 20-time Slam great Djokovic was deported from Australia just one day before the ‘Happy Slam’ got underway, before then suffering a shock defeat to Czechian qualifier Jiri Vesely at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

He was also unable to enter the United States unvaccinated which led to his withdrawal from Indian Wells and the Miami Open.

There is also further doubt clouding Djokovic’s participation at numerous other Masters 1000 events, as well as the remaining Grand Slams.

This comes after the Serbian icon reiterated his intention to remain unvaccinated in an interview with the BBC, in which he said he is willing to sacrifice Slam titles should vaccination be made mandatory for entry.

However, Djokovic has been handed some hope as both France and England have started loosening their restrictive measures to combat Covid-19. Thus meaning he may be allowed to defend his Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles.

As such, three-time Slam champion Andy Murray has backed Nadal to continue his fine form and enjoy a successful clay-court season but recognises it would be unwise to completely rule Djokovic out.

Speaking after his loss to Alexander Bublik, the former World number one said “as it stands today, I would have to put Rafa as being the favourite to potentially win the French Open again.

“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 quite relaxed and maybe a little bit less pressure than [what] was on him [for] 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.”

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.