Nishikori may be the outsider of note ahead of French Open

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Grand Slam titles for players outside of the top four in the ATP rankings may be few and far between, but there is adequate reason to believe that one of men’s tennis’ lesser lights could cause a stir at the French Open.

Looking back at the last seven years, Juan Martin del Potro’s US Open triumph of 2009 is the only real surprise success, while only a handful of other real tournament underdogs have even reached Grand Slam finals.

But the form and wellbeing of the top four this season suggest that their run of victories could well end.

Rafael Nadal is unsurprisingly the one to beat at Roland Garros again and bearing in mind that Novak Djokovic is the only player to beat him in his last four clay-court tournaments, he will be supported to win an eighth French Open crown in nine years at 5/6.

However, Nadal was forced to miss the Monte Carlo Masters because of his long-standing knee problems, which may give punters cause for concern, while he has been beaten on clay by Argentine Horacio Zeballos this year.

Djokovic has played sparingly in the clay-court season thus far and his defeat to Gregor Dimitrov in his opening match of the Madrid Masters will not offer much of a confidence boost.

This can be added to a defeat to Tommy Haas on the hard courts of Miami earlier this season and suddenly Djokovic is not looking such a shoo-in to knock off those further down the ATP rankings.

Andy Murray has never previously gone beyond the semi finals of the French Open and the fact that he only won three games against Stanislas Wawrinka in Monte Carlo is not the form of a Grand Slam champion.

Needing a third set tie-break to see off Gilles Simon in Madrid also looks patchy form.

Then we come to the final player to make up the big four and Roger Federer is still to reach a final of any kind in the 2013 season, let alone win a tournament.

His latest setback came in Madrid against Kei Nishikori, who has the game to threaten any of the top players on his day and may well be worth an each-way punt to win the French Open at 150/1.

Nishikori also holds victories over the likes of Djokovic, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his career so knows he can beat the top players, while he arguably would have been an even bigger force on the tennis stage if not slowed down by injuries.

But the Japanese player rates his Federer success as his best ever and therefore, he could not be arriving at the French Open on any more of a high in the hope of reaching the latter stages.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.