Rafa Nadal proved himself in outstanding touch when blasting long-time rival Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3 in the Rome Open final and with question marks over the form and fitness of his main rivals, the Spaniard looks nailed on to win the French Open for an Open era record-breaking eighth time at 1/1.
Since Nadal lost in the final of the first tournament since his comeback, the only man to best him on court this term has been world number one Novak Djokovic. Given that loss came on clay, fans could have been forgiven for thinking that the Serb was finally ready to challenge Rafa on the dirt at Roland Garros.
However since that defeat in the final of the Monte Carlo Open Nadal has seen off 15 rivals, winning tournaments in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, whereas Djokovic has struggled for form, getting turned over by Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych in failing to reach the semis of his last two tournaments.
Against Berdych in Rome, Djokovic spurned an opportunity to serve out the match at 5-2 up in the second set, allowing the Czech to clamber back into the match and eventually secure victory.
Such inconsistencies in the boy from Belgrade’s game will raise concerns about the right ankle injury that has been troubling him in recent weeks, despite his assertion that he had been playing pain free in the Italian capital.
In many ways, despite the fact that he’s still on the comeback trail after ending a six-month injury lay-off in February, Nadal has fewer fitness worries than his biggest rivals.
Djokovic’s ankle remains a concern, Andy Murray’s back may yet force him to miss Roland Garros altogether and time appears to be catching up with Federer, who has played only half as many matches as the Spaniard this term, with preserving his fitness for big tournaments a priority.
Nadal’s chances of yet another French Open win were further improved by victory over the Swiss in Rome, with the win pushing him back up to number four in the world rankings. This elevation means that he’ll not have to meet one of the other three leading Roland Garros contenders until the semi-final stage in Paris.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publication