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French Open 2012: Why Rafael Nadal Is No Lock to Make the Finals

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 29:  Rafael Nadal of Spain looks on after his men's singles first round match against Simone Bolelli of Italy during day 3 of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 29, 2012 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Michael GuadalupeFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2012

Rafael Nadal is a machine on the clay court. The French Open is his to dominate.

Should we be jumping to the conclusion that Nadal will go straight to the finals though?

Nadal has his share of injuries. From his shoulder problems that would have him change rackets, to even having to withdraw from the Sony Ericsson Open because of a left knee problem, Nadal has some serious injury concerns.

Nadal is all about his speed and torque that he can put on the ball. With presumably a shoulder and a knee injury, how much will it hamper his playing style?

Nadal doesn't have a lot of variety when it comes to how he plays on clay. He serves one way, and tends to use top spin shots a lot. He plays one way, but he does it extremely well. An injury to the shoulders and knees could easily slow down his shot, and make him much more predictable.

What about Nadal's opponents? Can he withstand going further into the tournament to face off against opponents like Juan Monaco who is fairly good on clay himself? A 100% healthy Nadal would breeze past a guy like Monaco, but what about one that is dealing with knee problems?

Even Andy Murray, who is having his own injury problems, could cause trouble for Nadal. With Murray standing at 6'3", he holds a height advantage over Nadal, and Nadal does tend to struggle against taller players. Let’s not forget that Murray has beaten Nadal before, so he could very well do it again with the added injuries Nadal has.

It's safe to say that Nadal is a dominant force on clay. He is the "king of clay" after all.  Unfortunately there is no denying the fact that injuries could play a huge role in dethroning the king. Opponents that Nadal may not usually struggle with become much harder when he has to worry about hurting his knees more, or his shoulder.

Nadal uses his brute strength to make his top spin so dangerous. Will his injuries take away from that? And will his opposition be able to capitalize on it?

Nadal is without a doubt a dominant force on clay. With that said, anything could happen and with recent injuries and tough competition, he shouldn't be considered a shoo-in for the finals.

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