EXCLUSIVE: Why only Novak Djokovic can beat Rafael Nadal at French Open – Robin Soderling

That is the view of 2009 and 2010 French Open runner-up Robin Soderling.

When Roland Garros gets underway on Sunday it will mark ten years since Soderling’s memorable run to the final, where he was beaten by Roger Federer.

En route to the final, Soderling beat Nadal in the fourth round, ending a run of four consecutive wins in Paris for the Spaniard.

When Nadal begins the defence of his title next week, he will be aiming for an incredible 12th Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy.

But he faces a significant challenge from Djokovic, who could rewrite the history books by becoming the first man to win four consecutive Grand Slams twice.

On Sunday, Nadal laid down a marker by beating Djokovic in three sets in the Italian Open final.

The previous week, Djokovic was in dominant form as he won the Madrid Open, his 33rd Masters 1000 title.

There is also the added factor of Federer playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015.

The draw for the French Open will be made on Thursday evening with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer the top three seeds.

And Soderling told Express Sport that Nadal tops the front-runners for the title.

“If he’s healthy, anytime he plays on clay, Nadal is the favourite,” he said.

“But Rafa has struggled a little bit with injury and pulled out from Miami.

“I think Roger definitely has a chance. You know he can definitely win the French Open again but Nadal is healthy, Djokovic as well, and I think they’ll be a little bit bigger favourite right now.”

Djokovic and Nadal will be on opposite sides of the draw with a showdown in the final on June 9 the most desired end result.

And Soderling feels Djokovic is the only man capable of beating Nadal at the French Open.

“He’s beaten him many times on clay, beat him once in Paris as well. He’s maybe the only guy right now that has the chance to stand up against Nadal,” he said.

“He’s not going to beat Nadal on clay like some other players being really aggressive and just hitting winners through Nadal.

“He can stand up there and beat him physically which maybe he’s the only guy that can actually to do it on clay. The French Open is going to be the most difficult Grand Slam grand to win I think.

“But if he plays his best tennis as he did in Melbourne in the final against Rafa, [where] he just crushed him then of course he can beat him on clay as well.”

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