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Nadal favoured to halt Federer Grand Slam

Rafael Nadal's bruised and battered French Open victims are unanimous - Roger Federer is set for another Roland Garros heartbreak in Sunday's Final.

sports Updated: Jun 09, 2007 15:17 IST

Rafael Nadal's bruised and battered French Open victims are unanimous - Roger Federer is set for another Roland Garros heartbreak in Sunday's Final.

One by one Lleyton Hewitt, Carlos Moya and Novak Djokovic have fallen to the two-times defending champion and not one of them has been able to take a set off the Spaniard.

What chance then for Federer who has tennis immortality in his sights and Nadal's imposing physique firmly in the way.

The Serb Djokovik was the latest to suffer at the hands of the Spanish maestro who at just 21 years old already is on his way to eclipsing Bjorn Borg as the greatest claycourt player of all time.

"He's very confident playing on clay, it's his favourite surface," the 20-year-old revelation of the year said after his straight sets defeat.

"During the match, when you see how fit he is, how much he can go left-right, running without dropping any energy.

"He is on one level all the time and it's not easy to hold on to him, especially on this surface."

"I can say that the final will be open, because the last match they played, Federer won in Hamburg. But I would put Rafa as the favourite because he won in the past two years here in the French Open."

Former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt would not beg to differ.

Losing in straight sets to Nadal in the fourth round, the straight-talking Australian, who has lost his last nine games against Federer, nevertheless also gave the advantage to the younger man.

"I think he's going to be tough to beat," he said of Nadal.

"The conditions here suit him really well, probably more so than the court in Hamburg where Roger beat him. It bounces around a lot which I think helps Nadal more."

Moya, Nadal's victim in the quarter-finals, probably knows the game of his fellow Mallorcan better than anyone else as the two are close friends and associates.

"I think that there are just a few players who can even get a set from him," he said of Nadal.

"Maybe, if he is relaxed for a couple of games, maybe he loses his serve, so that's the only chance.

"But if he's playing focused the whole match, I don't see many players who can even get a set off him."

Same analysis from Spain's Davis Cup captain Emilio Sanchez who compares his young compatriot to Borg, a six times former winner in Paris.

"He forces the other player into making mistakes. The pressure he applies to his opponents in the end destroys them," he said.

"For me he is logically the favourite for this final. He plays with his heart, but also with his physique. He is as rapid as a sprinter and as durable as a marathon runner. He is quite simply unique."

Mats Wilander, who won here three times in the 1980s, was more circumspect declining to give a prediction, but saying that Federer would not be swept away by Nadal like he was in last year's final.

Writing in L'Equipe sports daily, the Swede commented: "Roger has made considerable progess mentally since last year. And if there was one bet to make for me it would be that this time he will not be swamped by Rafael Nadal."

American great John McEnroe, working for US television in Paris gives a slight edge to Federer.

"If he wins the French Open, he'll be the greatest player of all time, ahead of [Rod] Laver, ahead of [Pete] Sampras," he said.

"If there's a guy that can beat Nadal, it's Roger. He's been sharper than Nadal through most of this tournament."