Rafael Nadal is every bit le bete sauvage he was two years ago when he won his fourth straight French Open. Last year’s loss to Robin Soderling in the fourth round at Roland Garros was an anomaly for Nadal. It was his first loss ever at the French. Taking nothing away from the Swede, Rafa was hurting physically. Play began Sunday at the French and by day’s end Tuesday round one was in the books with the top-16 seeds all advancing. Nadal is once again the odds-on favorite for a fifth title in Paris. The Clay Master has been superlative this spring, winning three straight Masters Series events, while posting a perfect record on the red clay. Defending champion and top-ranked Roger Federer appears to be rounding into form after battling a lung infection earlier in the year. Nadal made a statement of sorts two weeks ago, defeating the Swiss Maestro in straight sets in the final at Madrid. It would be bold conjecture to predict that Federer won’t make it to the final, much less his 24nd straight semifinal in a major, but I have a hunch the streak ends in Paris. Federer’s top quarter has opened up some with first-round losses by Janko Tipsarevic and No. 27 Feliciano Lopez, pegged to meet the top seed in the second and third rounds respectively. If seedings hold to form, Federer would play No. 14 Gael Monfils in the fourth round and either No. 5 Soderling or No. 10 Marin Cilic in the quarters. I see a Federer and Soderling meeting with the Swede finally pinning a loss on Federer. Quarter 2 has No. 4 Andy Murray seeded to meet No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Neither will make it that far. Murray escaped disaster yesterday, rallying from a two-set deficit to to beat Richard Gasquet in a first-round matchup. Murray loses to Marcos Baghdatis, the No. 25 seed in the third round. Baghdatis then falls to John Isner, the No. 17 seed, in the fourth round. Isner and No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny, who takes out Tsonga in round four, meet in the quarters with the Russian prevailing. In the bottom half of the draw, No. 5 Andy Roddick is projected to meet No. 4 Novak Djokovic in the Quarter 3 quarterfinal. Ain’t gonna happen. No. 9 David Ferrer, who has the most wins on clay this year, and Juan Carlos Ferrero, the No. 16 seed, will duel for a berth in the semis. Ferrer faces a tough challenge against No. 22 Jurgen Melzer in the third round. Ferrer wins this section. In the bottom quarter, my crystal ball reads No. 7 Fernando Verdasco over No. 19 Nicolas Almagro in the fourth round. Nadal ends No. 24 Thomaz Belluci’s nice run in their round-four pairing and advances to a quarterfinal meeting with Verdasco. Nadal owns Verdasco. Enough said. So it’s Soderling v Youzhny and Ferrer v Nadal in the semis. Make it a Soderling-Nadal final with Nadal avenging his loss last year.