Rod Laver explains why Roger Federer can beat Rafael Nadal at 2017 French Open

By @saihoops on
Rod Laver, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal
Apr 2, 2017; Key Biscayne, FL, USA; Rafael Nadal of Spain (L) and Roger Federer of Switzerland (R) hold the finalist and Butch Buchholz trophy, respectively, after their match in the men's singles championship of the 2017 Miami Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center. Federer won 6-3, 6-4. USA TODAY Sports / Geoff Burke

Roger Federer can shock the world and beat Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, at the forthcoming 2017 French Open, according to Australian tennis legend Rod Laver. Federer has defeated Nadal, his arch nemesis, on three separate occasions this year, including a five-set clash at the 2017 Australian Open final.

The 35-year-old Federer also beat Nadal at the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and most recently the finals of the Miami Open in Key Biscayne. Federer still trails the Spaniard 23-14 in their 13-year rivalry but the Swiss Master has now won four consecutive match-ups against Nadal dating back to the 2015 Basel final. 

Federer's newfound success against Nadal has been attributed to the improvement in his backhand, which was previously his weakest shot. "The way he’s (Federer) playing, it isn’t a far-reaching situation for him to win the French Open," Laver said in a recent interview, via Tennis World USA.

In 2009, Federer completed the career Grand Slam with his elusive French Open championship after Nadal shockingly lost to Robin Soderling in the fourth round. At the time, analysts felt Federer was lucky to evade Nadal despite beating the Spaniard in the finals of the Madrid Masters a week before. 

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal rivalry to resume at French Open 2017?

According to Laver, Federer's backhand could help him defeat Nadal once again at Roland Garross, the way he did at Melbourne Park at the start of the year. "It’s (Federer's backhand) night and day. It’s like he (has) found a totally new backhand. (Nadal) has that left-handed forehand that goes into Roger’s backhand, so he usually starts the point behind. Now, he’s capable of holding up under the pressure Rafa puts him under," said Laver, who captured two French Open championships (1962, 1969) in his illustrous career.

After beating Nadal at Indian Wells, Federer revealed the adjustment that has helped him get the better of his long-time rival. "By coming over my backhand on the return, from the get-go of the point, I can dominate points right away. It's important to keep your opponent off-guard and know that he has to be careful," said Federer, who clinched an unprecedented Grand Slam No. 18 at the 2017 Australian Open.

Nadal on track to win 10th French Open title

Both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have made remarkable comebacks from an injury-ridden 2016 season. While the two all-time great players have avoided clashes against top-ranked stars Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, it's difficult to overlook them as contenders for the remaining three Grand Slam events of the year.

The 30-year-old Spaniard has looked nearly untouchable on his road to Roland Garross after notching up relatively easy victories at the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open. The 14-time Grand Slam champion will now look to gather more momentum at the Madrid Open (May 7-14), the lone Masters 1000 tournament on Spanish soil. After the event in La Caja Magica, Nadal will travel to Rome for the Italian Open (May 14-21) in what would be his last stop before Roland Garross. 

Nadal began 2017 as the World No. 9 with a cloud of uncertainty hanging around his future. However, he has quickly dispelled those doubts, climbing to World No. 5 with a realistic chance to earn a Top-3 seeding at the forthcoming French Open. Federer is also expected to earn a Top-5 seeding despite skipping most of the clay-court season. The 2017 French Open begins on May 22.

In case you missed it:

"I believe I've managed to stay at the top of the game because I've never lost hope; I've always had passion to become a better player. My goal is to remain in the circuit for as long as I can." - Rafael Nadal (Read more: 'I am more ambitious than ever')