Rafael Nadal Should Be Favorite Heading into 2013 French Open

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 12:  Rafael Nadal of Spain bites his trophy after winning his final match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland on day nine of the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament at the Caja Magica  on May 12, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

After defeating Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-4 in the finals of the 2013 Mutua Madrid Open Sunday, it’s clear that despite missing significant time over the last year, Rafael Nadal should be a favorite heading into the 2013 French Open.

This year's edition of the French Open from Roland Garros kicks off Sunday, May 26, which will give the Spanish star a few weeks to rest after utterly dominating in front of his home crowd in Madrid.

Not only did Nadal dominate Wawrinka—keeping the double faults down (one) and lowering his unforced errors (15)—but he also had to beat powerhouse David Ferrer and fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar to even earn a place in the Madrid Open finals. 

With the return of his aggressive style on the court, his hard serve and the lateral speed he possessed before his knee injuries slowed him, Nadal proved at the Madrid Open that he is physically as ready for the French Open as anyone could hope.

Once Nadal reached the finals, it was clear that the 26-year-old had started to return to his elite physical form once again. As long as he can stay healthy now, there is no questioning the pure dominance Nadal has shown at the French Open during his career.

The world is about to find out what Wawrinka already knows: Nadal is back.

No matter where the ATP ranks the Grand Slam champion—currently fifth in the world—Nadal should be the odds-on favorite at the French Open every time he walks through the door at Roland Garros.

That’s where winning seven French Open titles in eight career attempts (including being the three-time defending champion of the event) makes Nadal the safest bet to dominate at the tournament once again despite injuries.

Those seven tournament victories mark the most in French Open history, one more than tennis legend Bjorn Borg, who was tied for the record with Nadal before the Spanish champion beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 last year.

With a 52-1 career record at the French Open, Nadal owns the clay courts of Roland Garros.

The one big factor working against Nadal has been his injuries and his health. Not only has the 26-year-old star been dealing with knee tendinitis that kept him out of the 2012 Olympics and the subsequent tournaments, but an illness in December also kept him out of the 2013 Australian Open.

If the time away from tennis has helped Nadal return to an elite form physically and mentally, this could mean big things for the future for the former World's No. 1. The men’s division in tennis is incredibly tough with Roger Federer, Djokovic and others floating around, but Nadal dominates the clay of Roland Garros.

This could be the beginning of Nadal’s return to glory.