Excuse the paradox, but it was a quietly big weekend for Rafael Nadal, who claimed his ninth Barcelona Open title with victory over Kei Nishikori on Sunday.
The Spaniard’s latest clay title means he now ties with Guillermo Vilas’ record of 49 on the dusty surface, and the 29-year-old is hitting some ominous form with the French Open six weeks away.
A first round exit at the Australian Open consigned Nadal to a third-straight Slam without reaching the fourth round or beyond, and many had begun to believe the end may be in sight for the 14-time Slam champion.
But the King of Clay also won the Monte Carlo Masters, and it’s the first time since 2012 Nadal has claimed both Monte Carlo and Barcelona titles in the same year.
Rafa is 10-0 on the dirt this year, and went the whole week in Barca without dropping a set.
After a failed switch to new strings, Nadal brought his old strings back in March, and some of his biggest assets like his lethal forehand are really coming back to their best.
All this, plus the added confidence of back-to-back titles, means Rafa is sure to be hugely popular for the French Open, and his 3/1 price won’t stick around for long.
Novak Djokovic is 8/11 favourite, but the Serbian hasn’t been at his best of late, and he was dumped out in Monte Carlo by relative outsider Jiri Vesely.
There’s a chance Rafa and Djoko could meet in Madrid or Rome before they head to Paris, and should Nadal win either of those potential clashes, his odds for a stunning 10th French Open will come tumbling.
There was once a time when 3/1 on Nadal to win the French Open would have been judged absurd, but if he keeps up his current form and momentum, it will seem just that again in 2016.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.