Hewitt backs Nadal for French crown
PARIS, June 5, 2007 (AFP) - Lleyton Hewitt set his sights on Wimbledon on Tuesday while insisting that not even Roger Federer can stop Rafael Nadal's ruthless assault on a third successive French Open title.
The Australian was swept aside by the 21-year-old Spaniard leaving the former world number one, and Wimbledon and US Open champion, to declare that nothing will prevent Nadal from emulating Bjorn Borg as a three-in-a-row Roland Garros winner.
“I think he’s going to be tough to beat,” said Hewitt after his demoralising 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) fourth round defeat.
“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.”
Federer, seeking to win a first French Open title and become only the third man in history to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, clinched his first win over Nadal on clay in Germany last month.
The result ended the Spaniard’s record run of 81 matches unbeaten on clay and gave renewed hope to the world number one that he could at last add the Roland Garros crown to his four Wimbledon, three US Open and three Australian Open triumphs.
But Hewitt, who has now lost to Nadal at the same stage here two years in a row, believes that Federer is facing another doomed campaign.
The 26-year-old Australian also thinks that Nadal’s widely-admired, destructive forehand will be key if, as expected, the champion and Federer stage a repeat of the 2006 final here on Sunday.
“On all surfaces, Roger’s forehand is pretty good. On grass especially because it goes through a bit more,” said Hewitt.
“But on clay, there’s no doubt that Nadal has the best forehand to set up the points.”
Despite his defeat, Hewitt believes that he can still be a claycourt contender even though Nadal is carving out a virtual monopoly on the surface.
“I feel like I’m getting better every year on clay. There have been times over the last few months where I’ve felt I’ve been playing the best clay court tennis of my career.
“That comes with learning a little bit more about it.”
Hewitt now heads for the more familiar surroundings of grass courts and another attempt to wrest back the Wimbledon title he claimed in 2002.
He is adamant that the harsh lessons of Roland Garros will stand in him in good stead despite the drastically contrasting demands of the faster surface.
“My ball-striking’s pretty good,” he said. “Playing on grass is totally different but I’ve been serving really well.
“The body’s feeling good so hopefully I can have a good couple of weeks.”
Subject: French news