By Gillon Gross

Rafael Nadal is 52-1 on the red dirt of Rolland Garros. Is it possible that betting on Rafa to win the French is safer than betting on the rest of the field as a whole? The stats say, yes. Based on all of Rafa’s French Open appearances starting in 2005, there is an 88% chance Rafa will win it all. It’s simple math- Rafa has won seven of eight career French Opens. Nadal’s winning percentage is an astounding 98% in Paris. It’s true- Rafa’s chances to win Roland Garros are larger than Djokovic, Federer, and Murrays chances combined.

Rafa’s career rests upon two joints above his shins, below his thighs. Nadal is only 27; he will turn 28 next week. But the Spaniard has went through his career fighting a battle with his knees. Most recently, he missed seven months after last years Wimbledon. Rafa’s knees may keep him from passing Roger Federer for the most Major titles of all-time, but there is no reason to believe it will stop him from wining his eighth title in Paris.

Rafa’s first tournament back from injury was the Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open. You already know where this is going. Rafa won his 21st masters 100o title after a seven month leave. Only a special athletes can pull that stuff off. Since then, he has won six more titles. Last week he conquered his 22nd master 1000 victory in Rome. The man has his foot on the gas right now. His knee should be left out of the picture.

Perhaps there is one man who can beat him and knees, healthy or not. Novak Djokovic has made it clear that winning Roland Garros is his number one priority for this year. “This is the tournament that is the No. 1 priority of my year, of my season,” said Djokovic on Friday. “This is where I want to win, and I’m going to go for it. I think my game is there, and I’m very, very motivated. If Novak were to pull off a French open title, he would become the eighth player to complete the career grand slam. Last year, him and Rafa met in where else but the finals. Many said Novak would’ve won if it were not for a rain delay at a bad time.  This year, the draw has made it so that Rafa and Novak would meet in the semi-finals.

Novak kicked off the 2013 clay season in fabulous fashion. Novak handed Rafa his first and only loss of 2013 in the finals of the Monte Carlo Masters 1000. Novak called the match one of his best clay court matches in his career as he defeated the king of clay in straight sets, 6-2 7-6(1). This ended Rafa’s historic title streak at Monte Carlo as he had won seven times in a row prior to the defeat. Recently, Novak hasn’t had the same kind of success. He lost in the first round to Grigor Dimitrov in Madrid. Then he lost to Tomas Berdych in the quarters of Rome. Rafa on the other hand, won in both Madrid and Rome.

Roger Federer hates being number three. His chances are something to consider as he consistently played the role of runner-up to Rafael Nadal all throughout the clay season. Rafa has handled fed with ease in both the Rome and Madrid finals. Anything can happen deep in a major tournament. Roger will be in the final days of the tournament without a doubt. He definitely deserves the third favorite to win it.

It seems the battle on the dirt is less open to players outside of the top three. Even Andy Murray stinks on clay by his own standards. Players like Del Potro, Tsonga, and Berdych just never make it on clay. Even when Robin Soderling upset Rafa in the 2008 Roland Garros, he was defeated by Roger Federer in the finals. We could see a player like David Ferrer go deep in the tourney, but he is overwhelmed by the fire power of the top guns. We could expect to see a Cinderella story In Queens two months from now, but in Paris it’s just not there.

The semi finals will likely mean the finals, as Novak and Rafa are one step above the rest of the field. Red hot Rafa will edge the inconsistent Serb. We can expect Rafael Nadal to conquer his eighth Roland Garros title.



Filed under: Mohl Gross, Tennis

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