John McEnroe on Roland Garros: Semi for Federer Would be Solid; Big Hitter Could Defeat Nadal

Despite being clear favorite for Roland Garros, John McEnroe believes Rafael Nadal could walk away without the title.

May 20, 2013 — John McEnroe participated in a Tennis Channel media conference call today, dishing out his opinion on Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal. Despite being overwhelming favorites for Roland Garros, McEnroe believes that either player could have a hiccup and lose unexpectedly.

Serena Williams has been unstoppable recently, extending her match winning streak to 24 and going 16-0 on clay this year, including three titles in Charleston, Madrid and Rome. However,  McEnroe believes there is one way in which Williams may not walk away with the Roland Garros title: if she beats herself.

“The level she’s at when she’s playing well, I don’t think anybody can beat her,” says McEnroe. “(But) anybody, no matter great they are, everybody has bad days. On clay, it’s her worst surface. The odds would increase. The pressure is greater obviously at the French because she’s only won it once. I would say at some stage in the event, it would be likely that she won’t have one of her best days. Depending on her opponent that day, someone might have a shot at her.”

Similarly, Rafael Nadal has stormed back onto the ATP Tour after an injury layoff, winning six titles out of eight tournaments and leading the ATP rankings race to London. So, what — or who — would it take to possibly defeat Nadal in his French kingdom?

“Unless something happens that’s unforeseen, it would be pretty hard‑pressed to make an argument for anyone other than (Novak) Djokovic to beat him,” states McEnroe. ” It would have to be one of those swing‑for‑the‑fences type players like (Robin) Soderling was that one year, and the conditions would have to be extremely heavy so his ball wouldn’t have the type of jump it normally does.”

And much like with Williams, McEnroe believes that Nadal would have to have an “off day” in order to be eliminated.

“It’s possible he might be caught off guard in a match, but it’s unlikely that someone can still beat him in a best‑of‑five,” he states.

Bonus McEnroe

… on Roger Federer‘s potential at Roland Garros:

“I would think at some stage for anybody, even Roger, the motivation of playing in the smaller events becomes an issue. Then if you string a couple of mediocre results it gets frustrating. The it’s difficult for him at his age that he could go past like a Djokovic and Nadal to win something on a clay court. I think his best bet, as I’ve said for years, is Wimbledon. I would be amazed if he would be able to beat both those guys at the French … I think at this stage for him, if he got to the semis, it would be a solid result.”

… on the stability of young up-and-comers:

“(Grigor) Dimitrov has finally taken a step in the right direction, I think he was certainly top‑five material.  I think (Milos) Raonic has the ability to break easily into the top 10, top five potentially … (Bernard) Tomic has issues with his father … Ryan Harrison I always felt was a solid player, top‑20 potential, (but)  I didn’t see that individual sort of trait that would separate him with some of these other guys … I like Jack Sock quite a bit, but I don’t know exactly what’s happening as far as his commitment, training.”