Roland Garros is a place where Rafa Nadal can presumably hang his hat at the end of every May----he’s only ever lost one match in Paris, and has won 53 matches. He’ll go down as the best of all-time on clay, and in Monday’s first round action he looked disturbingly mortal. A German named Daniel Brands made a solid effort of taking down one of tennis’ giants, but fell short, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-3.
Rafa has looked like his former self so far in the spring of this year after taking a seven-month hiatus to rehab his knee. Since coming back, Nadal has won 32 of his 34 matches on clay and six titles. If Rafa can outlast the likes of Djokovic and Federer he would become the first man to ever win eight championships at a single slam event.
The main competitor in Rafa’s road to legendary status is Djokovic, who is looking to complete his own resume with his first French Open. Novak took care of David Goffin on Tuesday, and is all but looking forward to making it back to the final to face Nadal for some payback after Nadal ended Djoker’s 27-match winning streak. Nadal has a slim advantage in their head-to-head meetings (19-15), but is almost unbeatable even against Djokovic (11-3). The main statistic heading into week two next week is this: Djokovic is 3-3 in their last six meetings on clay and doesn’t seem at all intimidated by the lefty Spaniard.
Roger Federer at age 31, is entering the French Open without a title under his belt this far into a calendar year for the first time since 2000. He made the final in Rome a few weeks back and was handled with ease by Rafa 6-1, 6-3. One to stay away from injury for much of his career, he has had some back troubles the past two years and will need to make it through names like Tsonga and Ferrer to have a chance to make it to the final at Roland Garros. He will always have that silky smooth backhand and mechanically sound forehand working in his favor, but with younger talent entering the tour every year, his chances of upset increase.