World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will look to win back-to-back French Open and Wimbledon titles for the third time in his career this season, as he arrives at SW19 prepared for the task at hand. His first opponent this week is Martin Klizan, whom he has encountered once previously on the professional circuit. That encounter took place at the 2013 French Open and went in Nadal’s favour to give him a 1-0 lead in the head-to-head series.
Nadal secured a historic ninth French Open title and a remarkable fourteenth Grand Slam title overall, which puts him alongside Pete Sampras at No. 2 in the Grand Slam title-leaders list. Rafa produced a remarkable contest in front of the Parisian crowd, as he overwhelmed Djokovic for three out of the four sets played to lift his fifth consecutive title at Roland Garros. Novak won the opening set, and was in a strong position to win the second set, but Nadal stormed back into the match and never looked back. The win is even more impressive when you consider that Nadal had defeated David Ferrer and Andy Murray in his two previous matches at Roland Garros.
The French Open champion failed to translate his clay court momentum on grass, as he would lose his opening match at the Gerry Weber Open against Dustin Brown. The Spaniard returned home to Mallorca shortly afterwards to recuperate from the constant grind, and is now considering an exhibition tournament to further prepare himself. Nadal also admitted that his back was bothering him, and that it was an issue that was similar to that he faced at the Australian Open.
Nadal, who lost in the second round in 2012 and the first round in 2013, is looking to perform at a much higher level this time around, even though his draw in particularly kind to him this season. Apart from starting against Martin Klizan, he could encounter his 2012 vanquisher Lukas Rosol soon afterwards, as well as tall, big-hitters Ivo Karlovic and Milos Raonic deeper in the draw.
World No. 57 Martin Kilzan had a successful clay court portion of the season, where he won a title in Munich and then reached the third round at Roland Garros. He would begin his grass court run at Eastbourne, where he defeated Delbonis and Young before losing to France’s Richard Gasquet in the following round.
This is just the second time that Nadal and Klizan cross paths on the circuit, with their previous encounter also taking place at a Grand Slam event. This is a highly intriguing encounter, as Klizan is an underrated competitor, capable of producing upsets at unexpected moments, while Nadal is in a vulnerable state on grass, due to his experiences on that surface over the past two years.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Four Sets