THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING RAFA; TENNIS MURRAY v NADAL,TODAY, 8.30AM.
JOHN LLOYD has claimed Andy Murray will today dump a "vulnerable" Rafa Nadal out of the Australian Open.
Murray is the first British player to reach the last eight at Melbourne Park since the Davis Cup captain back in 1985.
Lloyd believes the Scot now faces "a hell of a match" against the defending champion from Spain in the quarter-finals.
But he thinks Murray has a great chance against a slimmed-down Nadal, who looks to have lost a lot of his bulk and physical power.
"I fancy Andy's chances," said Eurosport pundit Lloyd. "I think Andy will do serious damage on Nadal's serve. I liked the look of Rafa over the first couple of matches. I wondered whether Andy would have enough punch.
"But I saw Rafa against Philipp Kohlschreiber and he had to save a lot of break points.
"I looked at Rafa there and I thought he is more vulnerable, right this minute, than he has been in the past.
"The way Andy played against John Isner, I think Andy is the favourite."
Nadal insists he has not lost weight since returning from injury - despite photographic evidence showing the Muscles from Mallorca is now Senor Skinny from Spain.
The 23-year-old has ditched the sleeveless shirts, which used to show off his biceps, and cut his hair shorter.
But most observers reckon he is also less bulked up following knee problems which ruled him out of Wimbledon last summer. Former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker said: "I don't think Nadal is back to his best yet physically.
"He missed a couple of months last summer because of injury, and it's a long road back to full strength and full fitness. The problem is that it takes months and months, sometimes even years of training to get muscles, and then they can disappear in just a few weeks.
"I think Nadal looks stronger now than he did in the autumn, but he's not at full strength at the moment."
But the 6ft 1in Nadal angrily insisted that he is the same weight - 13st 4lb - as he was at the start of his career.
"My body is the same, believe me," he said. "Same weight, same height. Don't believe everything you read!
"I have the same weight as last year. I weighed the same five years ago. I didn't change.
"I practise at 100 per cent just like I used to. You can watch me practice, you can come."
Lloyd, however, is sure Rafa is ripe for the taking and reckons for the first time ever in a match against Nadal, Murray will start as favourite.
"The court is playing slower and I was wondering whether Andy has enough punch to knock his way through but now, I think he has," added Lloyd.
"It is certainly a 50-50 match but I think Andy will win. In the past, Andy beating Rafa in a Slam may have been a surprise, but not now. I feel good about this one for Andy."
Even Nadal is happy to accept the underdog role.
His coach and uncle Toni Nadal said: "This is the most difficult match we could have faced at this stage. Rafa thought he was the favourite against Karlovic, but here he regards Murray as the favourite, especially as we play on Murray's best surface."
Expert TV pundit Tracy Austin, former world No.1, said: "Murray has all the tools to win his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
"But being the only British player with even a sliver of a chance to bring home the big trophies is a massive weight."
2010 FIRED UP After beating Karlovic in Melbourne 2008 PUMPED UP Before losing semi at US Open 2008 Nadal he showing on business meant the way to winning Wimbledon 2010Rafa arrived at the Australian Open looking slimmer and less of a threat
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jan 26, 2010|
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