Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal is the favorite to win a record 11th French Open title at Roland Garros in 2018. In this picture, Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrate by biting the trophy after victory in his Mens Final match against Alexander Zverev of Germany during day 8 of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2018 tennis at Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, May 20, 2018. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

There are going to be very few people who will go against the odds and bet against Rafael Nadal winning his 11th French Open title in 2018.

The Spaniard is the overwhelming favorite to triumph at Roland Garros yet again after a strong clay court campaign saw him win three of the four tournaments he entered. He won the Monte Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open and the Italian Open.

Nadal’s only loss came in the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open, but he is still the most feared player on the red dirt going into the French Open. Dominic Thiem was the player that beat the 10-time French Open winner in the quarter-finals in the Spanish capital.

The Austrian brought to an end the Spaniard’s 21-match winning streak and coincidentally he was the player that inflicted his last defeat on clay, which came in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open in 2017. Former British tennis professional Naomi Cavaday has installed him as the only candidate that can challenge Nadal for the title at Roland Garros this year.

However, she is unsure if Thiem can beat Nadal if they meet in the final, as he takes on a different persona in the latter stages of his favorite Grand Slam. Cavaday believes the only chance the Austrian has of beating Nadal is if they meet in the early stages of the French Open.

The former British women’s tennis player, currently a pundit, advises Thiem to hope Nadal is in his half of the draw to ensure they meet earlier than the finals, as no one else can beat the Spaniard at Roland Garros. One other player Cavaday has chosen is Italian Fabio Fognini, who has beaten Nadal on three previous occasions on clay and gave him a stiff challenge at the recently concluded Italian Open.

“It’s impossible to say who is going to be in the final because everyone in Nadal’s section is out so that’s half the draw gone,” Cavaday said, as quoted by the Express. “It would be [good for Thiem to be in Nadal’s half]. If he wants to win Roland Garros - and I’m pretty sure he does - he’s going to have to beat Rafa Nadal.”

“Because otherwise someone else is going to have to do it for him and it looks like no-one is going to do that. Fabio Fognini might be able to flash one, you never know. So he’s [Thiem] best off playing him as early as possible. The earliest time he can meet him is in the quarter-finals. I’d pick round one if I could,” she added.

“You’d much rather play Nadal early than in a final. Look at the level he produced in the final in Rome. He really started to hit his stride and get better and better through the tournament,” she said, talking about Nadal’s three-set win over Alexander Zverev at the Italian Open.