Arantxa Sanchez picks Nadal, Halep as favourites to win French Open

Former women’s world no 1 tennis player Arantxa Sanchez Vicario Thursday picked Rafael Nadal in men’s and Simona Halep in women’s singles to win this year’s French Open titles.

“Rafa is my favorite to win French Open Men’s singles title this year. How many times has he won this tournament? Ten times before and still he is the favourite. However, one also has to be careful with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer,” she told PTI in an interview here.

She is in the city as ambassador of IAAF Gold Label TCS World 10K run. Arantxa will encourage the 25,000 runners through her story of determination and never-say-die-attitude.

The women’s singles is wide open, Arantxa said, but she would pick Halep as favourite to win the French Open because she has been consistent and is a resourceful player.

“It is wide open at this moment to see who is going to win. If I want to pick one player, who is more able and resourceful, I must say it is Simona Halep. She stands good chance, but depends on how she would control the pressure. However, I do not count out other women contenders,” she said.

Asked who would end up winning most number of titles in men’s singles, she said it is difficult for her to pick one because Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are great players and equally competent.

Moreover, players do not focus much on the rankings but to win one title at a time and remain number one, Arantxa said.

“The players do not think much of rankings. They just try to win big events, most important tournaments and grand slams, besides doing their best every time. However, the sport needs them to play more longer as it is better for the game,” she said.

Asked whether India has the potential to produce world class singles players, Arantxa said, “With lots of juniors hitting the scene with more support and facilities at their disposal, India definitely stands a chance to produce single players.

“I think it is possible to produce singles players, contrary to doubles players, who had hit international headlines. Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza are few names one can mention,” she said.

“This is a very long sport. The new generation have more support and facilities at their disposal and hence, India should be able to produce good singles players,” she added.

On her brother Emilio Sanchez coaching Ramkumar Ramnathan for a brief period, Arantxa hoped the Indian youngster gets better.

“I know he is being coached by my brother. My brother has a coaching camp in Naples. I think it is a good move to go there. He has been doing really well and hopefully he gets better,” she said.

Recollecting the moments when she defeated then world number one Steffi Graff in the French Open, Arantxa said the German legend was unhappy as she did not expect she would be beaten.

“After Steffi lost to me in the French Open final, she was visibly not happy as I could see unhappiness writ all over her face. However, she shook my hand and congratulated me. That’s all she told me, but afterwards she said I deserved to win because I played better,” she said.

“As you said Steffi was unbeatable until she met me in the French Open final. I went into the match with confidence as I had nothing to lose,” she said.

“Thankfully, I was playing on clay, which was my forte. I surprised her. She did not expect that I would play that long, and when the match went on. I realised I had chances, but at the beginning I knew it would be difficult.