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By Chris Oddo | Tuesday, May 19, 2015

 
Nadal Roland Garros

In an ESPN conference call, Patrick McEnroe says that an early loss in Paris could have very dire consequences for the king of clay.

Photo Source: AP

Speaking on a conference call to promote ESPN’s coverage of this year’s French Open, Patrick McEnroe and Chris Evert were exceptionally bearish on both the short-term and long-term prospects for the Rafael Nadal's career.

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“I think this could be a real crossroads tournament for Nadal,” said McEnroe. “I don't see him sticking around if he drops out of the top 10, if he loses relatively early, which is actually possible.”

Nadal, who will be seeded seventh at the event, could see his rankings drop further if he does not win his tenth Roland Garros title.

“I think it would be a huge psychological blow to him,” McEnroe said. “In addition to the fact that, you know, just the way he plays, there's so much effort expended. He doesn't have the same ease of just striking the ball as Djokovic and Federer obviously. So I hope it doesn't happen, but I think it could be a very quick fall for him.”

McEnroe says Rafa’s heart is not in question. Rather, it’s his body.

“I never underestimate the heart of a champion,” he said. “I don't think it's his heart, though, that would do it. Obviously his heart and his commitment will be there. I think it's his body. If his body and his mind start to break down, and I think they sort of go hand-in-hand, I think that would be his downfall. It's not that he's not going to want it. If reality sets in in a way that he doesn't think he can do it anymore, I think he could be done pretty quickly.”

Also on the conference call, seven-time Roland Garros champion Chris Evert agreed with McEnroe. “I kind of feel that way, too. In every other year where he's had sort of a slow start, you're right, he's always depended on the clay court season to get that confidence back, then that set him up for the rest of the year where he's ended up pretty well. I think if you take away the clay court season for him confidence-wise, I just think it's going to be that much tougher for him to be grinding it out on the hard courts. I think it will affect him.”

 

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