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Coco Gauff of the US celebrates winning her round of 64 match against Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva in Rome. Image Credit: Reuters

Rome: Coco Gauff had doubts about an ailing Rafa Nadal’s chances at last year’s French Open, only to see him romp to a 14th title at the Paris Grand Slam, and the women’s world No 5 said she will never underestimate him again at Roland Garros.

Nadal, 36, has not played since suffering a hip injury at the Australian Open in January and there are doubts about the Spaniard’s participation in Paris after the 22-time major champion pulled out of the Italian Open.

Gauff said Nadal would be her first pick to win in Paris if he is fit enough to play, despite his lack of time on court.

Something special

“I don’t think he needs match experience,” the 19-year-old told reporters in Rome. “I’m sure he probably would have preferred to play some matches before. Him and Roland Garros is something special.

“I made the mistake of doubting him (last year),” the American added. “Next thing you know, he pretty much stormed his way to the final and won in straight sets.”

Gauff, who finished runner-up to Iga Swiatek at the French Open last year, continues her build-up to the May 28-June 11 tournament when she faces Marie Bouzkova in Rome on Saturday.