Andy Murray believes Rafael Nadal’s stuttering form makes Novak Djokovic favourite to win the French Open, but insists it would be “stupid” to write off the Spaniard.
Nadal has lost only once in 10 years at Roland Garros but injuries, illness and a string of disappointing results have seen the nine-time champion slip to seventh in the world rankings.
Djokovic has picked up five tournament victories this year and Murray, who could meet Djokovic or Nadal in the semi-finals, believes the Serbian is now the man to beat in Paris.
“(Nadal’s form) changes things. Novak for me goes into the tournament as the favourite now,” Murray, who will face a qualifier in the first round, said.
“But on that court Rafa’s record is ridiculous. It’s completely possible that he gets out there and feels great, especially if he gets himself into the tournament and wins his first few matches.
“He’s going to feel better and better. He obviously loves the conditions here, although the courts this week have been extremely slow. If it gets warmer and starts to speed up, obviously he loves the conditions here.
“It would be stupid to write him off or suggest that he can’t win the event.”
Nadal is seeded sixth. His placing in the top quarter sets up a potential clash with Djokovic in the last eight.
Murray is in the same half of the draw, meaning he could play the victor in the semi-finals. But he may first have to overcome Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, American John Isner and Spanish clay-court specialist David Ferrer.
“I would love to be in that position to have made the semis for me that’s a great result at this event,” Murray said.
“It could work both ways. If Nadal and Djokovic play a five-hour marathon, then whoever plays against them in the semis is happy about that.
“But if either one of them goes on the court and crushes the other one, they can be pretty confident going into the semi-finals as well.
Murray matched his best performance at Roland Garros last year, reaching the semi-final before losing to Nadal in straight sets.
The Scot has also struggled against Djokovic in recent meetings, having lost to the world number one in each of their last seven matches, including the Australian Open final in January.
“I’m in the same half of the draw as Rafa and Novak, so that’s hard,” Murray added.
“Ferrer is someone I have never beaten on clay before. That’s tough,” he said.
“And then Isner is the other seed, and Kyrgios, who obviously has had some huge wins in slams.
“It’s certainly not an easy draw, that’s for sure.”
Play at the second grand slam of the year begins in Paris tomorrow.