The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nadal the emerging star: Becker

London: Boris Becker knows a thing or two about winning Grand Slams as a teenager and he is convinced Spainís Rafael Nadal is the player to beat at the French Open.

World No. 1 Roger Federer will seek to complete his Grand Slam collection in Paris but the Swiss has a relatively poor record on the slow clay of Roland Garros and 18-year-old Nadal is on fire.

'At the moment Nadal is a big favourite,' Becker said. 'Yes, you have (Argentine Gaston) Gaudio, the defending champion, you have (Argentine Guillermo) Coria, you have (Spainís Juan Carlos) Ferrero and you have Federer.

'Federer on clay is also a big threat so you shouldnít overlook him. But the top player right now is Rafael Nadal.'

The now-retired former world No. 1 sees more than a hint of ĎBoom-Boom Borisí Nadal, the Mallorcan who has won four tournaments this year including back-to-back clay titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona to break into the top 10 for the first time.

'He is better on clay than I was,' laughed Becker, who never won a claycourt tournament despite accumulating 49 titles during his career.

'He is the up-and-coming new star of the tennis world and it is wonderful to see such a young kid with so much firepower and so much will to win. In a way he reminds me little bit of a young teenager in Germany 20 years ago or more.

'I am often in Spain, in Mallorca. I saw him playing four or five years ago and he had the same attitude and the same energy that he brings to his tennis right now.'

One of Nadalís biggest advantages, Becker said, was that he possessed the fearlessness of youth.

'It helps to be younger and just be very much in the zone, in the moment, just thinking about the next tennis balls,' said Becker. (Reuters)

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