Stan Wawrinka has endured a poor start to the clay court season, but former British number one Tim Henman still believes he will successfully defend his French Open crown.
The Swiss downed Novak Djokovic in the 2015 finale to claim the French Open title, adding to the Australian Open crown that he had claimed a year earlier. It was a result that few saw coming given Wawrinka's indifferent record at Roland Garros – he had only once previously made it past the fourth round.
The 31-year-old's preparations ahead of his defence have not gone as planned. Last week's round of 16 defeat to Juan Monaco at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia was the latest in a line of poor performances since the start of the clay season.
Despite this, Henman is backing the world number four to get the job done when it really matters.
“In terms of the highest level of tennis that anyone can produce on a clay court I think that Wawrinka’s might be the highest,” Henman told The Independent.
“When he’s on song I imagine it must be nigh on impossible to play against him given the firepower that he has and the speed he can generate from the back of the court and on serve.
“The challenge for him is the consistency. Whereas Djokovic, for example, plays well nearly all the time, Wawrinka is much more inconsistent. However, I’m sure that he’ll get a lot of positive vibes from last year in coming back as the defending champion.”
Henman added that he believes Andy Murray's victory over Novak Djokovic in Rome on Sunday could prove a watershed moment for the Scot heading into the year's second grand slam.
“He had lost 12 of their previous 13 matches and that can get a bit disheartening,” said the former British number one. “To win a big final like that and to play as well as he did bodes very well for Paris. I like the place where he’s at with his team. Mentally he’s been very calm and focused on the court.”