For a decade, Rafael Nadal dominated the clay courts of Roland Garros, winning the French slam on nine occasions from 2005-2014 and in addition to his plethora of tour titles playing on the scorched red dirt, cementing his standing at the sports “King of Clay.” But a noticeable decline in form at other majors in recent seasons, no doubt largely due to his persistent catalogue of injuries, finally caught up with the Spaniard at the French Open last year, as he was beaten by Novak Djokovic in the quarters.
2015 was set to be Djokovic’s year to win his first French title, but then he would ultimately fall to Stanislas Wawrinka in the final, and as things materialised, it appeared as though this year could in fact be Novak’s best chance of a first Roland Garros major. Roger Federer isn’t present – pulling out of the tournament altogether with injury – Andy Murray is faltering in the early stages.and with the perception that Nadal a shadow of his former self, perhaps the Serb will finally wrap up a career grand slam. Wawrinka is present to defend his title of course, but is it possible that the ferociously consistent Djokovic would lose to the same man two years in a row?
If Nadal’s first round match was anything to go by however, it appears as though the King of Clay is not ready to give up the throne just yet. Nadal had an easy time with big-hitting Sam Groth, winning 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in three dominant sets to send out an ominous warning and all of a sudden is looking like a man who is capable of winning his 10th French Open title.
Top seed Djokovic had no issues with his first-round opponent either but going into Day 5 of the tournament on Thursday, Nadal sits just behind Djokovic as second favourite for the tournament. Djokovic will be up against unseeded Belgian Steve Darcis, whilst Nadal takes on Argentina’s world no. 99 Facundo Bagnis. Nadal can win his 200th grand slam match by getting past Bagnis, becoming the eight man in history to do so.
Both men of course are expected to dominate their second-round opponents, but then again the expected doesn’t always happen on these courts, as evidenced by Murray’s struggles thus far. If Nadal looks as impressive today as he did on Tuesday however, then will he be gaining some considerable momentum and with little time spent on court, the odds will be looking good that he will at least reach a semi-final showdown with Novak, in a match that could decide this year’s eventual champion.