Rafael Nadal deserves to be the French Open favorite.
Coming off two consecutive clay victories (Barcelona and Madrid), Nadal has reached the finals in his previous five tournaments (winning three). The Italian Open will only help the clay surface master buff out the rough spots before entering France.
“Even if I’m playing my best tennis and completely fresh, it’s really, really tough to beat him,” Wawrinka said afterwards. “If you’re not completely there then he’s killing you, like he did at the beginning of the match."
Andy Murray said yesterday that Nadal’s recent form had been no surprise. “I think his record on clay was incredible before the injury and I expected him to come back and play well,” Murray said.
Even better, Nadal received a favorable draw to reach the quarterfinals.
In his section of the bracket, Nadal won't likely face another seeded opponent until fellow countryman David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych are the best possible challengers in the semifinals, but it would still take a lot to defeat Nadal on clay.
Who is most prepared to challenge Nadal at the 2013 French Open?
Djokovic's victory over Nadal in Monaco was definitely impressive. It's also important to note that Rafa has dropped just one set since last facing Djokovic: He lost the first set to Ferrer in Madrid before winning the next two.
The other half of the bracket features Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Unfortunately for them, each was bounced early in Madrid just like Djokovic and each has to instantly respond. With Nadal rolling, though, the pressure is on everyone else.
He's clearly getting stronger as the season progresses and that only makes him more dangerous. Just like Madrid and all previous tournaments this year, Rome acts as a stepping stone for Nadal entering the Roland Garros.
And that is where tennis fans will see Nadal in his element.