Frenchman Lucas Pouille believes Rafael Nadal remains the favourite ahead of Novak Djokovic to win this year’s French Open.
Pouille, who last month lost in the Australian Open semi-finals to Djokovic, made the statement shortly after Djokovic annihilated Nadal in the final Down Under.
But it will be a different story on clay, world No 17 Pouille believes.
“Nadal stays Nadal at the French Open. He is at home. On clay, (Djokovic) is just behind Nadal to me,” Pouille told French outlet Le Figaro.
Nadal will attempt to win his 12th French Open but he could run into a determined Djokovic who will be gunning for his fourth straight Grand Slam title.
Djokovic now leads 28-25 in the head-to-head rivalry against Nadal, and while Nadal leads 16-7 on clay, it might not be as plain sailing for the Spaniard as Pouille hinted.
The manner in which Djokovic destroyed Nadal in the Australian Open final – ALSO READ: How to attack Nadal – must surely have left a mental scar and it is worth noting that Djokovic won the last time the pair played at the French Open in 2015.
That year Djokovic was playing with similar confidence and thumped Nadal 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 in the quarter-finals to hand The King of Clay his heaviest-ever defeat on his preferred surface.
It is also worth noting that Nadal won the pair’s first nine meetings on clay between 2006 and 2009 – before Djokovic peaked.
Between 2011 and 2018 it’s 7-7 head-to-head between the pair on clay.
However, we feel if Djokovic can replicate this year’s Australian Open form – and how he played in the 2015 French Open quarter-final – he may get the better of Nadal at Roland Garros.
Nadal has never lost a final at the French Open in 11 attempts but Djokovic will feel the Spaniard is due a loss there.
However, it will take a monumental task to down Nadal in a final on Court Philippe Chatrier…
(@Djoker_Nole – Twitter)