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Rafael Nadal: French Open Is Spaniard's Only Shot at a 2013 Grand Slam

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 26:  Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts to a play during his Gentlemen's Singles first round match against Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil on day two of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 26, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
John RozumCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2013

The French Open is Rafael Nadal's only legitimate opportunity to win a Grand Slam in 2013.

While Nadal has basically owned the clay court since 2005, the combination of health concerns and the outstanding play of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray present cause for concern.

He first sat out the 2013 Australian Open, as noted in this Facebook post by Nadal in late December.

Regardless of how much talent any athlete possesses, it's reasonable to return to the game a bit rusty after having been out as long as Nadal.

Well, that wasn't the case with Nadal as he made the final in Chile and then won in Brazil.

Nadal is also making another strong run in the Mexican Open.

Each of those, however, are clay surface tournaments.

Winning on grass and hard courts still needs to be done at a more consistent rate. Unfortunately, this is where Nadal's opponents enter the equation—as well as a concern with health.

First, per Matt Cronin of TennisReports.net:

Secondly, Courtney Nguyen of Sports Illustrated writes:

Nadal’s withdrawal from Miami would come as no major surprise. He’s never won that tournament and hasn’t played particularly well there.

Indian Wells is a different matter. Nadal is a two-time champion, and he enjoys the quiet and peaceful environment in California. A tournament spokesperson told SI.com that Nadal’s camp has not contacted Indian Wells about withdrawing and that its understanding is that he intends to play.

If Nadal competes in each, it's certainly a step for him to silence any doubters regarding health and performance on other surfaces. The risk is obviously competing in tournament after tournament, which could potentially impact Nadal on clay as the year progresses.

Factor his aggressive style and full-force effort and that only increases the odds of further injury.

Plus, in an article by FOX News Latino earlier this week Nadal stated:

"My intention is to go to Indian Wells," Nadal said after reaching the second round of the Mexican Open late Tuesday. 

"This is the truth because I love this tournament and the priority is to play. But if I don't feel comfortable playing and have decided to wait to play on the hard courts, that's how it will be and I'll rest for the clay-court season (in Europe). But today I can't answer."

There's no sense in taking the chance if he's not 100 percent.

The guy will only be turning 27 years old this summer and has plenty of playing time left. And he'll need that time to knock off Djokovic and Murray.

Dating back to Wimbledon in 2010, Djokovic has won five slams, made three other finals appearances and three more semifinals.

Murray on the other hand, is in the midst of his best rhythm of his career.

After reaching the final at the 2011 Australian Open, Murray reached four consecutive Grand Slam semifinals and then made two straight finals: 2012 Wimbledon runner-up and 2012 U.S. Open champion.

Prior to winning his first slam, Murray also won gold at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. He then reached another final by dropping to Djokovic in Australia this year.

Combine the effort it will take to overcome each of these players, not to mention Roger Federer and David Ferrer, and a lot of work lies ahead.

Mesh all the elements of everything that has unfolded together and Nadal has one clear-cut shot for a 2013 Grand Slam.

Now, that is not to say he won't be a factor at Wimbledon or the US Open, because he still brings the talent to dominate those surfaces.

However, the current set of circumstances with the competition and health concerns aren't giving The King of Clay any other options.

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