Saturday, 8 January 2011

Flu-hit Nadal can still win in Melbourne - Agassi

World number one Rafael Nadal has been laid low by flu this week but Andre Agassi is confident the illness will not scupper the Spaniard’s chances of winning the Australian Open later this month.

Nadal could become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam titles at the same time should he triumph at Melbourne Park.

However, his illness has cast some doubt over whether he will be able to last the distance by playing seven matches in the unforgiving Australian heat.

He (Rafa) came off dominating the year (2010) and he took a healthy break after the U.S. Open, so he is going to be rested and confident,” former world number one Agassi said on Saturday at the Rise of Legends exhibition in Taiwan.

“(Roger) Federer also played fantastically at the end of the year. I think it’s a close race between these two players but Nadal has a bigger chance now,” added the American.

The 24-year-old Nadal silenced all his detractors, who had written him off in 2009 after he was dogged by tendinitis in both knees, by winning the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S Open titles within three months in 2010.

Ominously for the Spaniard’s rivals, Agassi warned that he had not reached his peak.

“Nadal is not even at his prime yet, he is still getting better. Nothing Nadal does will surprise me anymore,” said Agassi.

“It’s not easy to reach (Bjorn) Borg’s record at Wimbledon but it’s amazing what the Spanish player has done at Wimbledon with the game he has.”

Borg won five Wimbledon titles and on three occasions followed victory at the French Open with success at the grasscourt major. Nadal has already won back-to-back French Open and Wimbledon titles twice.

Nadal, who was unable to defend his Wimbledon crown two years ago because of painful knees, has been an outspoken critic of the men’s calendar which he believes does not allow players to take a long enough break.

Although the ATP season will be shortened by two weeks from next year, Agassi feels the players need to listen to their bodies more instead of simply fulfilling their commitments.

“After I was world number one, I did not have to care about being number one of the world for two, three, or four years in a row,” said the eight-times grand slam champion.

“I just focused very much on keeping myself healthy and trying to prepare (for the) big tournaments. I made very good decisions that allowed me to play longer.”

Courtesy: Yahoo

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