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Neil McLeman: Djokovic was the hot favourite coming into Roland Garros and nothing has changed

04 Jun | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Neil McLeman: Djokovic was the hot favourite coming into Roland Garros and nothing has changed

NEIL McLEMAN: The world No 1 showed he is now the best player in the planet on all surfaces with his destruction of reigning champion Rafa Nadal in the quarter-finals. And after beating the best clay courter of all time, I reckon no-one can stop him going on to win his first French Open and completing his career Grand Slam.

The super Serb is on a 27-match unbeaten run. And he has beaten Andy Murray in their last seven meetings since the Scot’s Wimbledon triumph – and on their only two meetings on clay. Right now he is looking like Michael Schumacher or Tiger Woods in their pomp – close to unbeatable.

One coach who watched a training sessions this week said the Serb’s ball-striking was as close to perfect as he had ever seen on a tennis court – with unerring consistency and accuracy too.

Temperatures are forecast to rise to 33 degrees celsius in Paris tomorrow but Djokovic, who has a gluten-free diet, is now arguably the fittest player on the tour. And his celebrity coach Boris Becker appears to have helped strengthen his mental game.

But two other tennis legends insist the semi-final showdown is not a done deal. John McEnroe told me that the world No 1 could struggle to match the heights of his performance against Nadal – a match which could easily have been the final. And the American, who never won here, suggested the weight of history to complete the career Grand Slam could inhibit his performance on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“The two best returners in the game are going at it – holding serve is going to be crucial,” he said.

And triple French Open champion Mats Wilander reckons Murray’s backhand – especially down the line – can hurt Djokovic even on the clay.

“I like the way he has turned his backhand into a serious weapon,” said the Swede. “He steps into the court and takes the ball extremely early. He injects that extra power and he will need to do that to beat Djokovic.”

Certainly Murray is ready for the showdown after completing his 15th consecutive win on clay by beating David Ferrer in the quarter-finals.

The Murray camp are very happy with their man – and quietly confident. The tensions inside his coaching staff caused by the appointment of Amelie Mauresmo are gone since a winter clear out. 

And he is back to his physical best following back surgery. He might even enjoy a bit of home support because of his French coach.

Despite the Serb now enjoying an 18-8 winning record against the Scot, the matches between the two players born just a week apart in May 1987 have usually been close.

Rafa Nadal’s cross-court forehand always troubles the elegant Roger Federer backhand while Djokovic’s two-handed backhand has the power to repel the left-hander’s most lethal weapon.

But Djokovic and Murray are a more equal match-up as both are brilliant movers with great defence. There won’t be much in it but I take Djokovic to win in four and go on and lift the title on Sunday.

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