French Open 2011: Overthrowing The King




Rafael Nadal - King of Clay

Rafael Nadal – King of Clay

The clay court season is in full swing and will culminate in a month’s time, with the annual French Open Championships at Rolland Garros. With world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, having made this court his own in recent years, here’s a look at the potential contenders who might have a hand in dethroning the king of clay.

An in-depth analysis of the contenders for the upcoming French Open.

I start from the World No. 3 Swiss maestro, Roger Federer. His prowess has weaned significantly over the last year and he has had to endure a testing run in the lead up to the clay court season. By his standards, he has been a pale shadow of his former self and it looks unlikely that he would reach the heights he once attained. That being said, one can never rule Fedex out, and he will remain one of the strongest threats to Nadal, also being the only other person in the draw to have tasted French Open success.

Novak Djokovic, popularly known as the Djoker is, in my opinion is the strongest contender and most likely to wrest the French Open crown from Nadal. He has had an unbelievable start to the 2011 season, and is still undefeated. He waltzed through the hard court season, claiming his second Australian Open in the season. He has also gone past Ivan Lendl’s 29 match unbeaten streak from 1989. However, he has had to pull out of a couple of tournaments in the clay court season due to injuries, and this has robbed him of valuable match practice, on his not  so favoured surface. He has beaten Nadal on clay in the Madrid Open and is certainly capable of beating the best on clay. He could also take over the No. 1 ranking if results go his way in this week’s Italian Open.

Andy Murray, has been Nadal’s nemesis in the past, but those were on hard courts. The pair recently met in Monte Carlo, where despite taking the first set, Murray could not hold on for the win. A semi-final spot could be the maximum he could achieve this year, and I doubt his mental ability to put one past Nadal on clay. Juan Martin del Potro, the big serving Argentine is back, after missing most of last season through injury. Having beaten Nadal before in a Grand Slam, he knows what it takes and would be gunning for a maiden French Open crown. He would surprise me if he could make it to the last four.

Robin Soderling, finalist in 2009, and responsible for ending Nadal’s four year streak at the time, is a dark horse. His game has improved significantly over the last couple of years and if he could get to the semis, then anything is possible.

However, I cannot look past the defending champion and five time French Open winner Rafael Nadal. He is in line to add a sixth crown and a tenth Grand Slam crown. He has been untouchable on clay this season, sewing up titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and reaching the finals in Madrid. He looks in perfect mental and physical condition, unlike two years ago, when injury cost him his fourth round tie against Robin Soderling. It would be nothing but a shock if he fails to win at Roland Garros this year, although a certain Serbian wouldn’t think so.

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