PARIS (Reuters) - Stan Wawrinka’s single-handed backhand can withstand the pummelling it will take from Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s men’s singles final at the French Open, according to three-times former champion Mats Wilander.
The 32-year-old Swiss is looking to win the title for the second time but faces the ultimate challenge for a player employing a single-hander on clay -- dealing with the bouncing head-high ball delivered by the Spaniard’s forehand.
No player with a single-handed backhand has ever managed to contain Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier, where he will attempt to win an unprecedented 10th French Open on Sunday.
Robin Soderling beat a weakened Nadal in 2009 and Novak Djokovic did it two years ago -- but both used double-handers.
“I‘m sure Stan will take a few minutes to figure out how high the ball is bouncing and where to hit his one-handed backhand from,” Wilander, working for Eurosport on the broadcaster’s flagship “Game Set and Mats” show, said.
”I think the difference between Stan and Dominic Thiem (who Nadal beat in the semis) is that Wawrinka has the best one-handed backhand of all time.
”Also he’s strong in the upper body so he can take Nadal’s high forehand and take it early and hit it down the line.
“He can get enough power so that Nadal can’t run around the backhand to get it on his forehand. If he can’t do that then it will look like all the other finals Nadal has won.”
Third seed Wawrinka played stupendous tennis at times to wear down world number one Andy Murray in five sets and Wilander believes the burly Swiss will have no fear.
“I think it helps Stan that he has won one here,” he said, referring to Wawrinka’s 2015 win over Djokovic.
“It releases you and you believe you can win. If Stan just plays the right match, Nadal will be tight early on because he wants it so badly.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar