Rafa Nadal may have started the season ranked number 9 in the world, but a trio of clay court titles this season has seen him ascend to number four as he bids to win a tenth French Open title in 13 years.
His wins in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid may have been followed by defeat in Italy, but the four-timer is something Nadal never managed even at his best. The extra few days rest should also mean he’s fighting fit as the season’s second Grand Slam reverts to the best-of-5-sets format which means he has even more time to wear his opponents into the ground.
However, if you’re not convinced, then take a look at Nadal’s clay court record against his fellow top-10 opponents.
Murray has understandably been lacking motivation after achieving his 2016 goals of winning Wimbledon and the Olympics, and becoming a father, and recent defeats against Fognini and Coric suggest he’s not in good enough form to improve on his 2 wins from 9 matches on clay against Nadal.
The pair have met 7-times at Roland Garros, with Nadal winning the first 6 encounters. Meanwhile, though Djokovic won the last one, Nadal was suffering with injuries then. Nadal was also in the mood to show who was the King of Clay when they met in Madrid earlier this season, winning 6-2 6-4.
Wawrinka is often the man for the big occasion, but he’s only ever beat Nadal once on clay. Their previous meeting here also saw Nadal breeze home 6-2 6-3 6-1.
Federer may have had Nadal’s measure in the Australian Open Final, but the fast courts were very much to his liking there. He’s only won 2 of their 15 previous clay court matches, the last being in 2009, and it’s hard to see Federer having the legs of Nadal in a clay court 5-setter.
Their one previous clay court match ended in a 6-4 6-0 triumph for Nadal, and he confirmed he’s simply a better player when winning in straight sets in this year’s Australian Open, suggesting Raonic has little chance if they clash here.
The young Austrian could be a danger man after beating Nadal in straight sets in Rome, though that was his first win in 3 matches the pair had contested this season. Nadal could be forgiven for being tired there though, and he may well have fancied an early exit with the French Open his main target for the season.
The Croatian did manage a win in Istanbul three starts back, but has generally been struggling this season. He also hasn’t beaten Nadal since 2009, and it will be a major surprise if he does so here.
The Japanese star likes to grind players into submission, but the problem is Nadal is just better at it. He did beat Nadal in last year’s US Open, but Nadal has won all their clay court matches so far.
The 20-year-old German took advantage of Nadal’s early exit last week to claim his first ATP 1,000 Masters Event, and he will surely be a grand slam winner in the next couple of seasons. However, he hasn’t been able to handle Nadal at all in their 3 matches so far, and lost 6-1 6-1 when they last met on clay.