Novak Djokovic offers rivals faint hope of a Rafael Nadal decline
World No 2 Novak Djokovic believes Rafael Nadal is still the man to beat in Rome and Paris
Novak Djokovic believes the world order remains unaltered, but as the leading men prepare to make their bow in this week’s Rome Masters there is a growing sense that change could be just around the corner. For most of the top players their appearance at the Foro Italico will be their last before the French Open, which begins a week on Sunday. For those with form or fitness concerns time is running out.
If Nadal’s victory at the Madrid Masters on Sunday indicated that clay-court order had been restored following his quarter-final defeats in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, the Spaniard’s performance in the final might have suggested otherwise. Kei Nishikori, who yesterday became the first Japanese man to break into the world’s top 10, outplayed Nadal in the first set before retiring with a back injury. The 24-year-old has pulled out of Rome and faces a race to be fit for Roland Garros.
Nadal was still happy with his week’s work and Djokovic, when asked if he thought the world No 1 might be more vulnerable this year, offered only the faintest of hope for his rivals.
“People expect Rafa to win Monte Carlo and Barcelona – and all the clay tournaments he plays,” Djokovic said. “There always comes a time when you lose a match, but he’s still in top shape. Losing in the quarter-finals at both Monte Carlo and Barcelona gives players a little bit more hope that they can win against him, but the men who beat him [David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro] are still very good players.”
Andy Murray plays his first match here against Marcel Granollers after an early exit from Madrid, Roger Federer is short of match practice after the birth of his second set of twins and Djokovic has not competed since Monte Carlo because of a wrist problem.
Djokovic pulled out of last week’s Madrid tournament on medical advice. He said he had not wanted to compromise his chances either here or at Roland Garros, especially as other players – most notably Juan Martin del Potro – have had long spells out of the game with chronic wrist injuries.
The women’s world No 1 Serena Williams, who withdrew from Madrid before her quarter-final because of a thigh injury, will make a late decision on whether to play here. “I’m taking it a day at a time,” she said.
Transfer news and rumours LIVE: Chelsea make £16m bid for Douglas Costa, Fabian Delph to join Liverpool or Spurs, Sergio Ramos latest
What time is the 2015 WWE Royal Rumble on? And full card
Cristiano Ronaldo vine: Real Madrid forward sent-off for kicking and striking opponent during 2-1 win over Cordoba
Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
Arsenal transfer news and rumours: Gabriel Paulista fee agreed as Gunners make £13.5m bid to sign Villarreal defender - reports
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens