Five-time defending champion Rafael Nadal will have to traverse a mine field of obstacles at Roland Garros in the coming fortnight if he is to win his 10th French Open title. The soon-to-be 29-year-old Spaniard is still struggling to regain his confidence and form after an injury and illness plagued 2014 season. Nadal, now ranked No. 7 in the world and seeded sixth at Roland Garros, has already lost more times on clay (5) in 2015 than he did in 2005-2008 (4). Italy’s Fabio Fognini has defeated Nadal twice this year on the Spaniard’s favorite surface, with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka a victory each. Unheard of stuff in the past. Nadal once won 81 matches in a row on clay and has a 66-1 record at the French Open which began today. Along with the travails of form and confidence, Nadal was dealt a tough hand in the draw. After opening with French wildcard Quentin Halys on Tuesday, Nadal could potentially meet 10th seed Grigor Dmitrov in the fourth round, top seed Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, third seed Andy Murray in the semifinals and second seed Roger Federer in the final. A tough row to hoe indeed. There has been all kinds of conjecture about what’s wrong with Nadal. Perhaps commentator John McEnroe summed it up best. “He’s put a lot of miles on the body, and mentally the way he operates and the energy he uses emotionally and physically, given his style of play, it takes its toll,” the former great said. Nadal, himself, has been brutally up front about the quandary he’s going through now with the French Open at hand. “I don’t need to lie to create better expectations. I am being honest,” he said. “When I say I don’t know what’s gonna happen, I really don’t know what’s gonna happen. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have confidence in myself to be ready for it. I have to think that I’m ready for it.” Defending women’s champion Maria Sharapova said the doubters were being disrespectful to a player with such a superlative record at Roland Garros. Two-time champion Jim Courier disagreed. “What’s interesting with Rafa is that he’s so honest about what he’s going through. Rafa has set himself up for the conversation because he talks about how he’s not playing the big points well,” Courier said. “He says he doesn’t have confidence and that his forehand is vulgar. He is initiating the discussion.” All that being said, I still think it will be hard to deny Nadal success on the terre battue in Paris, especially in a best-of-five-set match. At least until the quarterfinals, that is. A dream matchup between Djokovic and Rafa in the quarters is the final as far as I’m concerned. Whoever the winner plays in the semis is a lucky dog for sure. Talk about the probability of a spent opponent.
Nine-Time Champion Nadal Facing Doubts as French Open Begins
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