2012 French Open Previews: Rafael Nadal
Nadal, as most tennis fans know by now, has lost just once in 46 career matches in Paris, which translates into six titles in the seven years that he’s played the event. Things don’t look a whole lot different for him this year, either. As usual, the Spaniard has found his game on clay; as usual, he comes in with three Roland Garros tune-up titles under his belt. He’s even used the last month to finally turn the tables on his rival and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic; after seven straight losses, Nadal has won their last two meetings. Worst of all for his opponents, he likes the old-fashioned red clay in Paris best of all. What’s left for motivation? How about a chance to break a tie with Bjorn Borg and become the all-time men’s winner at the French Open?
Reason to Hope: After some tough losses and niggling injuries early in the season, Nadal has rounded into form right on time. He played his most calm and confident tennis of the season in Rome, and he’s lost exactly one three-out-of-five-set match on clay in his career. The man who beat him, Robin Soderling, just announced he won’t be in the tournament.
Reason to Worry: Nadal is going for seven French titles, but Djokovic has an even bigger motivation. Two, in fact: A win would complete a career Grand Slam for the Serb, and make him the first man in four decades to hold all four majors at once. And Djokovic has still won seven of the last nine meetings with Nadal.
The Last Word: Nadal is the best player in history on clay; that doesn’t make him unbeatable, but it will take a historic performance by opponent to knock him off.