The last fifteen years or so have been some of the best years for tennis fans, as they have been treated to not one, not two but three of the greatest players of all time playing together.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have redefined what it means to be a tennis great and while both Federer and Nadal are now entering the last legs of their careers, they are still capable of dominating on their favored courts with a little bit of luck on their side as well.
For Nadal, this has always been at the French Open, held annually at the Stade Roland Garros Park in Paris. The Spaniard has dominated this competition since his arrival onto the scene, having won it a record 13 times, including last year as well, when he drew level with Federer on 20 Grand Slam titles. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that the 34-year-old will be the favourite for this year’s tournament too, and he is tuning up for it in style, recently beating Djokovic in the final of the Italian Open.
This is being reflected on the betting markets as well, with sites such as https://www.sportfogadas.net/ already making him the odds-on favorite for the tournament, and it will take a huge effort from any challenger to deny him a 14th Roland Garros title, which would also take him to 21 Grand Slams and therefore ahead of Federer in the all-time list.
Why is Nadal so good on clay?
Nadal’s aggressive style of play, from behind the baseline and focused on using heavy topspin groundstrokes, is extremely well-suited to clay courts, where the ball slows down much more upon bouncing than it does on grass courts and hard courts. Additionally, the clay-court season is usually during the European summer, when hotter temperatures harden the clay and generate more bounce. This is one of the key parts of his game, and he publicly spoke about how the conditions ahead of the 2020 French Open were challenging, as colder temperatures and a heavier ball made it far more difficult for him to get the ball to bounce as high as earlier.
Another fact is that Nadal is left-handed, meaning that his forehands come into a right-handed opponent’s backhand, which is extremely difficult to return and cover for. Of course, it is not impossible to beat him on clay, but it is telling that his last loss at Roland Garros came in 2015 against Djokovic in the quarter-finals. The Serbian is perhaps the only player capable of beating him at the moment on his favored surface, but even so, it will take tremendous aggression, hard work and risks to even come close to defeating ‘The King of Clay’. Djokovic has won the French Open title once, in 2016, and with 18 Grand Slam titles, he is not too far behind Federer and Nadal either, so he will want a statement win at Roland Garros to solidify his name as one of the greats of the game as well.