Rafael Nadal‘s uncle Toni Nadal has suggested that his nephew could be the favourite to win at Wimbledon this year despite his surprise French Open defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovic earlier this month. The Spaniard was widely expected to stroll to a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, but was denied by his ‘Big Three’ rival at the end of a thrilling semi-final.
Djokovic played some of his very best tennis to down the ‘king of clay’ and set up a meeting in the final with Greek hopeful Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was ultimately defeated by the world No 1 after initially taking a two-set lead.
The result saw the Serb claim a 19th major tournament victory, with the 34-year-old now just one title behind 20-time winners Nadal and Roger Federer.
He will be aiming to draw level at Wimbledon, which returns later this month after last year’s absence from the Grand Slam circuit, as the formidable trio look to realise their individual ambitions of becoming the most decorated player of all time.
However, Toni has declared that Nadal has every chance of pipping Djokovic and Federer to glory at the All England Club and redeeming himself after losing out in Paris.
The 60-year-old, who coached his nephew to 16 of his Grand Slam titles, is backing him to pose a significant threat at both Wimbledon and the French Open as he enters a crucial period in his search for undisputed greatness.
“In the first games of the third set, Stefanos lacked some aggression and that extra concentration more experienced players often give in the important moments,” Toni told El Pais, running the rule over the French Open final.
“Djokovic took notice of the situation, increased his pace of play and maintained the same intensity until the end. He went from dominated to dominator.
“And as the games progressed, I think we all had the feeling that the scoreboard was going to be definitively pronounced in favour of the Serbian.
“We saw a good game and a denouement that brings Novak dangerously close to Federer and Rafael, in their struggle to close their respective careers as the greatest conqueror of Grand Slam titles.
“The next two tournaments, Wimbledon and the US Open, will probably be decisive in unveiling it.
“I would not dare to venture conclusions, but I do dare to maintain the confidence that it is my nephew who raises one of the two.”
Although Nadal has every right to argue his case as the greatest tennis player of all time, Federer and Djokovic are equally deserving of the title at present, with their fortunes over the next few years likely to provide a final answer to the all-important question.
Former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray recently weighed in on the debate by giving his backing to Djokovic, who now has the fabled ‘Golden Slam’ in his sights after winning both major tournaments since the turn of the year.
“I mean, none of their careers are finished yet, so I think obviously you have to wait and see what happens,” said Murray earlier this month.
“But yeah, for me, the fact he’s [Djokovic] won every Masters Series twice. And on Sunday he’s now won every Slam twice, as well, which for him is something that obviously stands out as where you could make that argument, well, you know.
“That is incredible what he’s done. Then, like, with Rafa you would then look and go: ‘Well, on clay he’s won 13 French Opens’.
“You know, that’s the most that anyone has won at a single Slam. That’s incredible. Then with Roger, you know, he’s been doing it all multiple kind of generations now.
“He’s still able to compete at the highest level. He’s 39 years old. You know, his record and his results on grass are unmatched.
“You know, all of them have, you know, things that or achievements that you could argue make them better than another.”