Rafael Nadal is the clear favorite going into the 2012 French Open. There are some players who can give the Spaniard a run for his money. Nadal is chasing his seventh Grand Slam, which will be the best of all time.
Nadal and Bjorn Borg are considered the two best ever on the clay surface. Only a handful of players have defeated Rafa on clay. Nadal has only lost to Robin Soderling in the last five years at Roland Garros.
Ivo Karlovic could give Nadal some trouble in the third round. He has a massive serve that could give Nadal cause to worry, as Rafa has had trouble with big servers in the past.
Karlovic isn't the best mover once a rally starts. He relies mainly on quick points. If this match takes place, Karlovic will want to rely on his serve and tiebreaks. If there are rallies, Nadal can run away with this match.
No. 19 Milos Raonic could be a very difficult test for Nadal in the fourth round. Raonic is young, but he has the potential to be something great. He has a monster serve and is one of the hardest hitters on tour right now.
Nadal does not want to get into too many rallies with Raonic. The young Raonic has given guys like Federer trouble. He's probably not as suited for the clay as he is a hard court, but Nadal is not wanting to see Raonic as an opponent.
Andy Murray has been dealing with a back injury as of late. He hasn't played his best during this clay court season, but he is still capable of going deep in any major. Murray has given Nadal a test in the past, but he can't seem to figure out the master of the clay.
Chances are the top four players in the world will make it to the semifinals, but Murray is the one that is questionable right now. He has the least amount of match play going into this Grand Slam, and he could have a very difficult time with David Ferrer. But Murray is as tough as they come on the tour. If he does face Nadal, he can take a set away from him, but probably not more than that.
How can a guy who has plagued Rafael Nadal in finals not be on this list? Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1, has given Nadal a run for his money in Grand Slam finals. The Serbian defeated Rafa in last year's Wimbledon, U.S. Open and most recently the Australian Open. He is not as sharp as he was last season, but he is the only one in the field who has a serious shot of knocking out Nadal.
Djokovic is the only one who is capable of moving Nadal around for a long period of time. He can rally with Nadal and handle his severe topspin. He's also just as a good a mover as the Spaniard. Djokovic will most likely see Nadal if he gets through Federer in the semifinals.
A rematch of the 2011 French Open final can happen once again. And it could possibly happen in the same fashion. Federer will most likely have to go through Djokovic in the semifinals to get to Nadal. His game is as not suited for Nadal as is Djokovic's.
What troubles arguably the greatest tennis player of all time is Nadal's topspin. Federer doesn't have the best backhand in a rally. Nadal realizes this, and he uses it to his advantage. What really troubles the Swiss is Rafa's ability to track down so many balls. It forces Federer to hit the extra shot—a shot that can possibly cause an unforced error.