Rafael Nadal’s rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have been reminded by Greg Rusedski that it is “near impossible” to beat the Spaniard at the French Open following his comeback win over Denis Shapovalov to reach the Italian Open quarter-finals.
The ‘King of Clay’ saved two match points having at one point been 4-0 up inside the first 16 minutes of the match and then 6-3, 3-0 up.
Nadal produced a brilliant fightback to win 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 and converted his second match point in his third-set tiebreak at Foro Italico.
It took three-and-a-half hours but Nadal is now into his 97th career Masters 1000 quarter-final as he bids to win a 10th Italian Open.
Nadal has suffered disappointment in Monte Carlo and Madrid despite winning the Barcelona Open and this is his final tournament prior to the French Open later this month.
The 34-year-old returns to Paris looking for his 14th triumph at the event and a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam overall, which would see him surpass Federer.
And world No 1 Djokovic and Federer have been warned that should they believe themselves capable of downing Nadal, they must remember their rival is close to unbeatable at the French Open.
Last year’s final saw Nadal thrash Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 on Court Philippe Chatrier to tie level with Federer on 20 Slams apiece.
“Roland Garros is another place. His record there is incredible. 125 wins, two losses,” Amazon Prime’s Rusedski, the former British No 1, declared after Nadal bounced back to beat Shapovalov.
“On top of that you’ve got to think it’s three out of five sets. To beat Rafa in two of three is easier but still difficult on clay.
“At the French Open, three out of five, is near impossible. The irony of the situation, Rafa hasn’t hit his best tennis.
“We thought against Sinner that he started to feel like it but you’ve got to look at the whole run-up.
“Lost to [Andrey] Rublev in Monte Carlo, all of a sudden wins Barcelona, loses to [Alexander] Zverev in Madrid, he can still go on to win this tournament.
And Daniela Hantuchova weighed in to say: “I think me and Greg both believe that when Rafa gets to Paris it’s a completely different Rafa.
“You come somewhere you’ve won a Slam 13 times and you can’t help yourself but be confident.
“It doesn’t matter what happened in Rome or Monte Carlo. We must not forget he won Barcelona which is not a small tournament.
“We’ll keep telling you: it [his pre-French Open form] doesn’t matter.”
Elsewhere at the Italian Open, top seed Djokovic takes on world No 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in Friday’s semi-finals while American Reilly Opelka is tasked with taking on Federico Delbonis.
This year’s French Open meanwhile gets underway on May 30 and will be concluded in the French capital on June 13, with Wimbledon then beginning on June 28.