Remember the start of the season, when we wondered if Rafa and his knees were ever going to be the same again? That was a long time ago. If anything, Nadal has been better than ever in 2013. Going into Roland Garros, he has won six of the eight tournaments he’s entered this year and is currently No. 1 in the Race to London, despite having missed the year’s only Grand Slam, in Australia. Nadal also appears to be peaking just as he gets ready to try to win a record eighth title in Paris. After his wins in Madrid and Rome, and his demolition of Roger Federer at the Foro Italico, Nadal will be the favorite in France again. But there remains one bump in his otherwise smooth clay ride: Novak Djokovic. Rafa lost his only match to the world No. 1, on dirt, in Monte Carlo.
What to Like:
Nobody else in the draw knows how to get through two weeks of three-out-of-five set tennis on clay like Rafa. He’s won seven French Opens; the rest of the field has won one combined. And Nadal’s main competition, Novak Djokovic, has been struggling.
What Not to Like:
Novak Djokovic hasn’t had a great clay season, but he did beat Nadal in Monte Carlo, which ended Rafa’s run of eight straight titles there. Nadal doesn’t like to play Djokovic on any surface, and that includes Parisian clay.
What to Expect:
Nadal has rounded into form again for Paris; as the tournament begins, only Djokovic looks to be a threat to Rafa’s eighth French Open title.
2013 French Open Profiles: