PARIS (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal’s 10th French Open triumph will send the Spaniard into Wimbledon next month as a favourite for the title alongside Roger Federer, Mats Wilander told Reuters on Sunday.
Nadal returned to his brutal best at Roland Garros this year, dropping only 35 games en route to the title and getting a 6-2 6-3 6-1 win over Stan Wawrinka in the final.
Not only did the victory give Nadal a professional-era record of 10 titles at the same slam it restarted his grand slam collection after three years without a major.
Wilander thinks the 31-year-old Spaniard could now go on a roll.
“Absolutely he is one of the main favourites now for Wimbledon,” three-times French Open champion Wilander, hosting Eurosport’s flagship “Game Set and Mats” programme in Paris, said as he digested Nadal’s return to his Roland Garros throne.
”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 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 has won Wimbledon twice but not since 2010 when he beat Tomas Berdych. Injury problems to his knees and wrist have stalled his collection of major silverware which now stands at 15 -- second on the all-time list behind Federer’s 18.
Wilander believes time away from the court after finishing last year early has helped the Mallorcan to return to his formidable physical peak.
”Tennis players don’t need to hit that many tennis balls but when they have a chance to get in the gym and work on the lower body and core that’s what helps. Nadal’s flying on the court and that gives him that extra confidence.
”I‘m not that interested in the numbers...10, 11 or nine. But 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 Novak (Djokovic) held all four.
“Rafa could arrive here next year in May with 18.”
Wilander said Nadal’s resurgence since pulling out of the French Open last year with a wrist injury -- he also reached the Australian Open final and is back at number two in the rankings -- is down to former world number one Carlos Moya joining his team.
”I never agreed with people who said Rafa should stop working with Toni (Nadal), but having his friend Carlos there and Francisco Roig means that they talk to Toni and give some new ideas and then Rafa trusts the plan.
“There has been a clear change since Carlos came in.”
Editing by Clare Fallon