Rafael Nadal will begin his hunt for a 10th French Open title on Monday when he plays second on Suzanne Lenglen Court. The Spaniard is a surprising omission from the top court although he may prefer the early time slot than that of the other men’s matches on Philippe Chatrier. His opponent will be one of the home favourites in Benoit Paire.
Paire remains impossible to predict given his wild inconsistency. While even his peak level shouldn’t be enough to trouble Nadal over 5 sets, he may be able to make it interesting for a short while. On the other hand, he is also capable of some of the worst tennis on offer for a top 50 player at times. This year hasn’t been too bad for him with a 50% win record on the main tour with the pinnacle being back to back wins over Pablo Carreno Busta and Stanislas Wawrinka in Madrid.
For Nadal, he comes into this tournament with expectations of a title for the first time in a while. The contrasting situations of he and Djokovic meant that many were expecting that Nadal may have to avoid Djokovic in order to win the tournament he once dominated. An incredible run on clay this Spring saw him end a lengthy losing streak to Djokovic in Madrid and more impressive was the nature of the win for Nadal, who rarely looked in trouble. His winning streak ended in Rome and perhaps fatigue was a little to blame for that as he suggested. “In Rome I was a little bit tired mentally more than physically, because it is lot of days in a row with playing at a high intensity. I am very happy the way that I arrived here. Now I have to play well here.” he said.
A bit of rest and no back to back matches for Nadal should have him in fine shape for the later rounds of the tournament where it feels as if there is very little to trouble him for the first week at least. All eyes will be on the likely semi final between he and Djokovic, a match that will likely crown the winner given question marks over many of the second tier of contenders in the draw.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in straight sets