Rafael Nadal's Madrid Open Performances Prove He's Man to Beat at French Open

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMay 10, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 08:  Rafael Nadal of Spain arrives on court before his match with Benoit Paire of France during day five of the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament at the Caja Magica on May 8, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

First seed, fifth seed or unseeded, it doesn't matter where Rafael Nadal begins the 2013 French Open, he is the man to beat at Roland Garros. 

This is all coming into view this week, as the debate as to where Nadal should be seeded rages on. 

As Reuters notes, French Open tournament director Gilbert Ysern has said that Nadal would not be reseeded. This means the guy who has won seven of the last eight French Opens will likely begin the tournament as a fifth seed, as they will be based off the world rankings

However, as I said, it it doesn't matter where Nadal is seeded. He still needs to be regarded as the favorite to win this tournament. And he is showing why at the Madrid Open. 

Rafael Nadal moved onto the quarterfinals by easily dispatching of Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3. It took him just an hour and 15 minutes to finish off this match. 

Nadal was dialed in with his epic forehand, and he simply overwhelmed Youzhny. This result wasn't a surprise. Nadal has made the finals in all six, and won four, of the tournaments he entered since his return from a seven-month layoff with a knee injury, and he is still getting better.  

He offered this up to the ATP official website:

I think I can play better than what I have until now...The results are difficult to get better, but the way I played in Monte Carlo and Barcelona could be better, yes. But here [Madrid] we're to keep on trying to do better and keep on fighting to have the opportunities to be competitive.

It is showing on the court. 

And when he's healthy, he is the man to beat at the French Open. While Novak Djokovic handed Nadal one of his losses this year, Nadal wasn't in full form yet.

That was in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters where Djokovic prevailed 6-2, 7-6 (1). Now, take a look at the video, and then the one from Nadal's win on Thursday, and the greater intensity in Nadal's movement comes into view.  

Nadal is moving more fluidly and with more confidence by the match. 

Djokovic's win also didn't come at the French, which may just be called the Nadal before too long.

The Roland Garros legend has won seven of the last eight French Opens, and not one of his title-clinching wins lasted the full five sets. Only Max Decugis has more French Open titles. He has one more, and that came when this was still an amateur championship.

Nadal's game is custom made for the French, and a big part of that is his ability to run down shots and still hit aggressive shots. He has to be confident in his knee to utilize this skill, and that confidence is coming back.  

With Nadal rapidly approaching full strength, it would be foolish to pick anyone else to capture the French.