For every year since 2007, Rafael Nadal has entered the French Open at Roland Garros wearing the tag of the favorite.
Each time but one, Nadal has lived up to that billing, and counting his titles in 2005 and 2006, the Spaniard has captured six of the past seven "Coupe des Mousquetaires."
However, since Rafa's last triumph, Serbian Novak Djokovic has won every Grand Slam title, beating Rafa in all three finals.
The latest was an unbelievable showdown in Melbourne, with Nole outlasting his opponent in five blistering sets of brilliant tennis. This proved once more that Djokovic could hang with the boys, even in a record-breaking match against one the greatest of all time.
Latest Betting Odds make Rafael Nadal the betting favorite at the upcoming French Open with 10/11 odds while the world No. 1 Djokovic is given only 13/8 odds. These odds are brought in from Bovoda Sportsbook.
I am not trying to take anything away from Nadal, who, in my mind, is the greatest clay-courter ever, but I don't think he should be considered the favorite by any means.
Last year, every single person expected the two top-ranked players in the world to clash on the red clay of Paris.
After all, they had met in Rome and Madrid in clay-court events leading up to Roland Garros (with Novak winning both), but it was not to be.
Nadal punched and scratched his way into the final where he awaited the Djokovic-Roger Federer winner.
Djokovic had no trouble reaching the semis, and it was widely viewed that he would upend Federer, whose clay-court results to date had been sub-par.
However, Federer played his best match of the past year, especially when he needed it most, and stunned Djokovic in a four-set brawl.
Nadal then went on to beat Federer in a great match, even though many thought it was a foregone conclusion that the "King of Clay" would upend his chief rival.
This year, despite Djokovic's recent dominance over Nadal (seven consecutive wins), everyone is quick to conclude that Nadal is going to take yet another title home to Mallorca this June.
It is a widely-held belief around the world of tennis that Nadal and Djokovic will meet for a fourth consecutive major. That prediction seems very logical.
Nadal has made it clear that it takes something very special to beat him in Paris, where he holds a career 45-1 record, and on clay overall, where no man other than Djokovic has beaten him since 2009 (a span of 52 matches and a 50-2 record), and where he previously won 81 straight matches.
Djokovic, on the other hand, has been on an overall tear, as last season he won 10 titles, including three majors, beat Nadal twice on clay and six times overall, and then won another major with another victory over Rafa in Australia.
These two players, in my opinion, are alone in the top tier of tennis right now.
This article is not intended to say that Nadal will not win a seventh title, or even that he shouldn't enter the tourney as the favorite, but rather to remind people of things.
Things like the fact that Nadal still has yet to solve the reformed Djokovic on clay, and that he benefited from an all-time great having to play one of his all-time best matches in order to win the title last year. Also, Rafa really didn't look all that strong during his run to the title, including a near-loss in the first round to John Isner.
Djokovic has beaten Nadal on clay more than once, and in majors more than once, and I honestly don't see why he can't put it together.
Nadal is still a great player, and honestly, he is my pick to win the French, but the belief that he has all but won the title already is ridiculous. Djokovic can play, he is on a mission and is at least on level terms with Nadal on clay at this point in time.