With the French Open around the corner, it’s time to weigh up the contenders for the Men’s Singles title. Since 2005, Rafael Nadal has won it every year except in 2009 and thus gained the nickname ‘The King of Clay’, but could his reign be coming to an end?
Nadal is without a doubt one of the finest clay court players in history, but with his recent string of injuries he is now ranked at No.5 in the world. Many people agree that the French Open is the most physically demanding tournament going, so these injury concerns may put him at a distinct disadvantage. However, while he struggled in the Australian Open losing meekly to Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals, he did show some signs of getting back on track after a rocky second half of last season. Also, his brilliance on clay and his record at Roland Garros of 66-1 make him very hard to discount.
Many pundits believe that this year will be Novak Djokovic’s best shot at swooping in and claiming the long-elusive French Open title. Betfair and others have him as evens at the time of writing and his current form supports this stance. He should walk in to the tournament benefiting strongly from his extraordinary play in the first half of the season and also from Nadal’s recent run of injuries. The Serbian has claimed three singles titles already this season with a 25-2 record, with no loss coming before the quarter-finals in any tournament. Nadal’s record so far this year is 15-5 and he will enter the tournament as the underdog.
An up-and-coming star that has found himself on many a pundit’s radar recently is Kei Nishikori. He is in excellent form after crashing onto the scene last year and cementing himself in the world’s top 10. He is ambitious and wants to be the first ever Asian born male to win a grand slam. He looked cool last May as he gave Nadal a run for his money in his first Masters 1000 final in Madrid. Unfortunately his back gave way and he lost control of the match and had to retire. With several of his rivals struggling for form he certainly could be the one to watch.
With Djokovic’s amazing form, Nadal’s brilliance on clay and Nishikori’s ambition to make a name for himself, this year’s French Open could be very interesting indeed.