For more than a decade now, the European clay court season has been synonymous with one name, the King of Clay ‘Rafael Nadal’. An unprecedented 11 French Open titles, 11 Monte Carlo titles, 11 Barcelona titles, 5 Madrid tiles, 8 Rome titles and more is what Nadal brought to the 2019 clay court season.
The 2019 season has thus far been a mixed one for Nadal. A solid showing at the Australian Open until the finals, where he had a humiliating loss to Novak Djokovic, was followed by a drama-filled loss in Acapulco to Nick Kyrgios. The Sunshine Masters started well for Nadal, but ended prematurely with an injury related withdrawal at Indian Wells and having to skip the Miami Masters.
An overwhelming favorite on the clay, Nadal was expected to win number 12 at each of Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Straight set semi-final losses to eventual champions Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem were unexpected, and questions around him being the favorite at the French Open got louder and louder.
A promising campaign in Madrid once again ended with a semi-final loss to Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Nadal arrived in Rome, being on the brink of traveling to the French Open with no titles for the year; a rare phenomen. Another solid week by the Spaniard resulted in him facing arch rival and world number one Novak Djokovic in the final.
Djokovic looked fatigued after a long week of tennis with some late night finishes, and Nadal was in sublime form taking advantage of the situation and winning his ninth Rome Masters 1000 title.
With increased confidence, Nadal makes his way to Paris aiming for a 12th French Open title. World number one and arch rival Novak Djokovic, clay court specialist Dominic Thiem and Swiss maestro Roger Federer are likely to be his strongest competitors on the clay in Paris.
With Thiem yet to completely prove his potential in the slams, and Federer not the most comfortable on clay, the battle for the second grand slam of the year, is likely to be one between Nadal and Djokovic.
Djokovic is aiming to hold all four grand slams for the second time in his career, and has looked in ominous form for large portions of the last twelve months. The Rome title will definitely give Nadal belief that he can once again be the champion at Roland Garros, after what has been a challenging few weeks for him on the clay by his standards.
Familiar conditions in Paris, coupled with his inherent ability to labor through five set matches as good as any on the tour, will work greatly in his favor. Regardless of his form going into the French Open, it will take a Herculean effort from anyone to uproot the Spaniard on the Roland Garros clay in best of five sets.
All good things must come to an end one day, and there are a handful of contenders who have the potential to uproot Nadal at the French Open – none of whose betting odds though are anywhere close to those offered for a Nadal win.
Expect Nadal to settle himself to the conditions through the first week and make his way into the second week of the tournament. Once in week two, it goes without saying that Nadal will be ominous and certainly still be the man to beat at Roland Garros.
French Open 2019 Betting Odds – Men’s Outright Winner: