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By Richard Pagliaro
© Fred Mullane and Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA


(July 5, 2010) New York City can be a concrete jungle and native New Yorker John McEnroe is tabbing "the animal" to tame it.

Four-time US Open champion McEnroe believes tennis' Tarzan, Rafael Nadal, owns the all-court game and raw desire to capture the Flushing Meadows major and complete the career Grand Slam. The US Open is the only major missing from Nadal's impressive championship collection, which features five Roland Garros championships, two Wimbledon crowns and the 2009 Australian Open.

"Nadal wants to win the US Open so badly," McEnroe told www.atpchampionstour.com. "It’d be hard not to pick him at this time even though he’s never won it."

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The physicality of Nadal's unrelenting style, combined with his acute court sense and the fact he's rolled through the competition in racking up a 31-1 record since bowing to Andy Roddick in the Sony Ericsson Open semifinals on Key Biscayne makes the muscular Mallorcan "an animal" in McEnroe's mind, who will not be denied the US Open title.

"The guy’s just an animal; he’s mentally and physically incredible and he can definitely do it if he’s in this shape. The conditions in New York don’t suit Nadal so well and he needs to make his body hold up," McEnroe said. "So I think after Wimbledon he is going to take some time off and get his knees recovered and then maybe not play too many matches before the Open."

In the aftermath of his straight sets sweep of 12th-seeded Tomas Berdych to capture his second Wimbledon crown on Sunday, Nadal said he will take a break before returning to play the Rogers Cup in Toronto, starting on August 9th, followed by the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati on August 15th in preparation for the US Open, which begins on August 30th.

Solidifying his status as the best big-match player in the sport, Nadal is 5-0 in his last five Grand Slam final. At the age of 24 he joins an esteemed class of champions  —  Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Fred Perry and Ken Rosewall  — with eight career Grand Slam championships
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If Nadal can stay healthy before New York, he would be the favorite to complete the career Grand Slam and make history as the first man to win three different majors on three different surfaces (Roland Garros on clay, Wimbledon on grass and the US Open on Deco Turf) in the same season.

The fact that the one player who worries Nadal most on hard court — reigning US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro — is recovering from wrist surgery and has already ruled himself out of New York helps Nadal's cause. Additionally, Nikolay Davydenko, who is 5-1 lifetime vs. Nadal on hard courts, recently made his comeback from a wrist injury during the grass-court season and will likely take time to find his form on hard courts.

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McEnroe believes 2008 US Open finalist Andy Murray will shake off his Wimbledon semifinal setback to Nadal and contend for the US Open.

"I thought it was a little soon for Murray at Wimbledon because he hasn’t been playing with much confidence for a lot of this year, but he likes the hard courts a lot better so he’ll be playing well at the US Open," McEnroe said. "Murray played well at Wimbledon. I feel like he did a lot of good things in his match against Nadal and it’s just a couple of points here and there, like the one at 6-5 in the tie break. If I were Murray I would continue on the same path. If he sticks with it and perseveres I think at some point he’ll get some luck and be able to pull a Grand Slam out of the bag. He just has to keep strong mentally and realize that his time will come."

 

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