Rafael Nadal is looking to become a nine-time champion in June. Image courtesy of Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
The French open is a tournament that puts one’s fitness to the test. The clay surface suits the player who defends well, who uses their skill and technique rather than their power. Rafael Nadal has proven that to be true. Known as a ‘clay court specialist’, he has won a total of 13 Grand Slams, 8 of them being the Roland Garros. But coming off a shock loss in the final of the Australian Open, the challengers are nipping at his heels.
On one hand you have the man who beat him Melbourne, Stanislas Wawrinka. The world number three subdued Nadal’s killer blows at every crucial moment. He played him around the court with sheer ferocity. On the other there is the man himself, Roger Federer. At age 32, he still possesses the skill it requires the take out the coveted trophy. But history works against him in this particular Grand Slam, having won it only once out of a collection of 17 Major titles.
With the likes of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic at the peak of their careers and Wawrinka, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych moving quickly up the ranks, “The Swiss Maestro” is far from one of the favourites on this surface. Combine that with Rafa’s reoccurring knee injuries, the race for the trophy is wide open.
Will this year mark the end of Nadal’s near decade dominance? Or will “Spain’s Raging Bull” again triumph over adversity? Only time will tell.