Tennis

Wilander: Nadal can hold all four Slams

Three-time French Open champion believes Spaniard can match Federer's 18 Majors by next May

The chase is back on.

Rafael Nadal's French Open win on Sunday made the score 15-18 in his epic Grand Slam duel with Roger Federer.

At stake is the title of greatest player in men's tennis history.

The Spaniard has already secured his position as the finest exponent on the red clay of Roland Garros when he secured La Decima, his 10th title, with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 win over Stan Wawrinka in Paris.

Said Federer: "An amazing 10th title at Roland Garros for Rafael Nadal - that will never happen again.

"Congratulations to a true champion on and off the court."

With 31-year-old Nadal five years younger than the Swiss, time might be on his side to eventually come out tops.

In fact, three-time French Open champion Mats Wilander believes the Spaniard could level the scores at 18-18 and hold all four Grand Slams come next May.

While hosting Eurosport's flagship "Game Set and Mats" programme, he said: "I'm not that interested in the numbers... 10, 11 or nine.

"What this title has done is restart his campaign.

"He hadn't won a Slam in years.

"Now he's going to be thinking going into the next three Slams (that) Novak (Djokovic) held all four. Rafa could arrive here (at Roland Garros) next year in May with 18."

Grand Slam count aside, the man from Mallorca already has the edge over Federer on a few counts.

On the Olympic stage, Nadal has two golds, one in singles and another in doubles, while Federer has only a doubles silver.

The Spaniard also boasts a better win percentage (82.5) than the Swiss (81.7).

Head-to-head, Nadal also has the edge, 23-14.

On grass and hardcourts Federer edges him 12-10, but on clay Nadal boasts a dominant 13-2 record.

While the majority of Nadal's 15 Grand Slam titles have come on clay, he has also beaten Federer in Grand Slam finals both on grass and the hardcourt.

The Swiss' sole French Open title came in 2009, when Nadal was knocked out early by Robin Soderling. The 36-year-old has yet to beat the French Open champion in any of their five meetings at Roland Garros.

Nadal's compatriot Tommy Robredo seemed to suggest that the King of Clay's Grand Slam total could have been even greater, tweeting: "What if we would have 2 Grand Slams on clay?"

The season-opening Australian Open and season-ending US Open are played on hardcourts while the French Open is on clay and Wimbledon is contested on grass.

Despite grass being Federer's strongest surface - he has seven Wimbledon crowns to Nadal's two - Mats Wilander now has the Mallorcan as favourite for the world's oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament next month.

The Swede added that Federer's absence at Roland Garros gave him the luxury of not having his confidence dented by an imperious Nadal, who didn't drop a set and lost just 35 games in Paris.

Said the Swede: "Absolutely he is one of the main favourites now for Wimbledon.

"He has taken confidence away from Wawrinka, from (Andy) Murray, even though he didn't play him.

"And Roger Federer is a very happy man that he didn't come to the French (Open) because his confidence has not been dented.

"Nadal has changed his game and he is playing way more aggressive, closer to the baseline, it's a different Nadal.

"He'll go to Wimbledon with so much confidence. For me, he's favourite with Federer but Federer won't have the confidence of coming in as French Open champion."

Nadal, however, is just hoping his knees hold out at Wimbledon next month.

He said: "I love grass, everybody knows, and it's a surface that I really enjoyed a lot playing on. And I (have) missed playing at Wimbledon.

"So, I hope that my knees hold well and I can have the preparation that I really need and the preparation that I want.

"If that happens, why not? If I have pain in the knees, then I know from experience that it's almost impossible." - WIRE SERVICES

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