MADRID: (AFP) Andy Murray insists it would be a mistake to write off Rafael Nadal as a claycourt force and expects the Spaniard to still be favourite for a 10th French Open.
World number three Murray stunned Nadal 6-3, 6-2 to win the Madrid Open on Sunday, his first Masters title on clay and a second claycourt title in a week.
It was also the Scot’s first victory over the Spaniard on clay in seven attempts, but he believes Nadal will still be the man to beat come Roland Garros at the end of the month.
“I think there were periods of the match where he played like he usually does, but there were also periods where he made more mistakes,” said Murray, who had never won a claycourt crown before his victory in Munich last Monday.
“On that court [in Paris] he has only ever lost one match, so when the French Open comes round he’ll be one of the favourites. It is maybe closer than it’s been in previous years, but I wouldn’t write him off.
“He showed enough this week to suggest that with two good weeks of work and good results in Rome [at next week’s Italian Open], he can go all the way at Roland Garros.”
Sunday’s defeat means Nadal will drop to seventh in the latest world rankings on Monday, the first time he has been out of the top five in 10 years.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion is also defending 600 ranking points in Rome having made last year’s final.
He stressed his priority was not dropping further down the rankings which could seriously affect his seeding at Roland Garros.
“Nothing changes going from five to seven,” he said. “I need a result in Rome to not drop below the top eight which could really affect Roland Garros. If you are not in the top eight you can get a top player in a really early round.”
Nadal, plagued by injury and illness at the end of last season, is still searching for his first title on the European clay in 2015.
But he is hopeful for more improvement in Rome after playing some of his best tennis of the year in reaching the final in Madrid.
“I cannot leave Madrid unhappy. I have to forget what happened today and remain with the positives,” said the 28-year-old.
“There were more good things than bad this week and I will try to recover those good sensations in Rome.
“I think I’ve made a step forward, I am playing better. This season I haven’t played two good weeks in a row and now is the time to do that.”
Murray, meanwhile, admitted his recent marriage to long-term girlfriend Kim Sears has helped his incredible start to the clay court season.
Two-time major winner Murray is 9-0 since getting married last month.
The Scottish star even wrote “marriage works” on the on-court camera after thrashing nine-time French Open champion Nadal.
Murray has also taken to wearing his wedding ring on the laces of his shoes during matches although he was quick to put it back on his finger after sealing victory over Nadal.
“I think people don’t always appreciate that sports people have another part of our lives that is very important to our performance,” said Murray.
“If you’re happy away from the court and you’re private and personal life is good that will help everything.
“So that obviously for me is very good right now. That helps performance, but you still need to put in the hard work as well, which I did in Barcelona and Munich before here and I’ve been rewarded for that.”