Rafael Nadal's Brilliant Clay-Court Season Will Conclude with French Open Title

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMay 17, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 11:  Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a backhand in the men's singles final against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during day 16 of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 11, 2012 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The king of clay, Rafael Nadal, has been near-flawless on his favorite surface thus far in 2013, and is poised to cap off the clay-court season with an eighth career French Open title.

Nadal has won four clay-court tournament championships since returning from a seven-month layoff back in February, and is 28-2 in singles play on the red stuff this year. He'll have a chance to add more wins and a title to those impressive marks at the Italian Open in Rome this weekend. 

A seven-time French Open champion, Nadal has won 52 of 53 career singles matches at Roland Garros. Even more remarkable, he's dropped just 14 sets total at the French Open since 2005, winning it all in 2008 and 2010 without dropping a single set from start to finish.

In 2012, Rafa didn't drop a single set until the final, which he won in four sets.

While Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will both be formidable in Paris this summer, there's no denying that Rafa is the man to beat. 

Much like Tiger Woods in his prime, it will be Nadal vs. the field at the French Open in 2013. 

He may not be the world No. 1 at the moment, but he will be the top dog once he steps onto the court in the French capital.

Nadal has dropped just two matches all year long and is currently in the midst of a 12-match winning streak that began back at the Barcelona Open last month. He steamrolled the competition there and then again last week at the Madrid Open, adding yet another Masters 1000 title to his trophy case.

With Rafa closing in on his record seventh Italian Open title this weekend, there's no player in the men's game hotter than the 26-year-old Spaniard.

Nadal's fellow competitor and current world No. 2 Andy Murray even admits that the 11-time Grand Slam champion is in a class all by himself when it comes to the clay (via ESPN.co.uk):

Rafa's record on clay was incredible before the injury and I expected him to come back and play well.

On clay he was quite far ahead of the rest of the pack so when he came back, even though his level maybe dropped a bit, once he starts to play more and more matches he's going to get up to that level.

Murray's willingness to admit Nadal's greatness on clay shows that not only tennis fans, but even Rafa's peers have come to expect dominance from him at this time of year.

But Murray is absolutely right. There's never been a player as lethal as Nadal on clay. Plus, his success rate at Roland Garros is nothing short of ridiculous, and the numbers are eye-popping to say the least. 

With Rafa playing brilliant clay-court tennis at the moment and his favorite major just days away at this point, Nadal is all set to cap off a memorable few months with an eighth French Open championship.


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