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Ken Rosewall expects to hand Rafa Nadal trophy then head home

(Ah Fat Talk Ball) - Fifty years after accepting his second Coupe des Mousquetaires, Australian great Ken Rosewall will bestow the French Open trophy on the men's singles champion next month and sees only one grateful player ready to claim it -- Rafa Nadal.

The 83-year-old has been impressed by Nadal's rampaging claycourt season, which included an eighth Italian Open title over the weekend and the heist of the world number one ranking from Roger Federer.

Nadal will head to Paris in search of a record-extending 11th title and his 17th grand slam win overall, with Federer watching from the sidelines.

The 31-year-old Spaniard's rivals, young guns and battle-scarred veterans among them, would be playing for second if the champion could stay on two legs, said Rosewall.

In the era of Federer, who will turn 37 in August, tennis players have been ageing like fine wine.

Fans have been spoilt, their cups running over with the long-time rivalry between the Swiss great and Nadal, even as 'Big Four' contemporaries Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have fallen by an injury-induced wayside.

Rosewall also came from an impressive vintage, and had to beat compatriot Rod Laver, the 11-times grand slam champion, to win the 1968 French Open title, 15 years after his first at Roland Garros.

Toting a wooden racket on a clay practice court at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, Rosewall was honoured by Tennis Australia in a low-key ceremony on the golden anniversary of the 1968 win, which was also the first grand slam of the professional era.

While eight players have won more slams than Rosewall, the man nicknamed "Muscles" -- an ironic reference to his lack of them -- collected his haul despite being ineligible to play the four majors for 11 years after turning professional in 1957.

Upon returning to the slams as a 33-year-old, Rosewall filled his boots with three more titles following his 1968 triumph to go with the four he claimed from 1953-56.

He remains the oldest men's grand slam champion in the professional era after lifting the 1972 Australian Open trophy at the age of 37.

Federer won a record-extending 20th grand slam title at Melbourne Park in January and a successful title defence there next year would see him eclipse Rosewall's mark of grand slam longevity.

Nadal turns 32 in June but could ultimately trump them all given his unfailing love for the game, said Rosewall. Federer's record haul, he felt, was also under threat from the marauding Mallorcan.

Much will depend on Nadal's ability to manage his schedule and tear himself away from the court to preserve his body, much as Federer has done in recent years.For more information  W88









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