The 2013 Rome Masters may feel like more of a tune-up to the French Open for elite tennis players, but it's always a great indicator on where these athletes stand. If it's any indication, Roger Federer is hot and that's never a good sign for Rafael Nadal.
Nadal has Federer's number—as well as every other competitor—at the French Open as he has dominated the tournament in a way that's set for the record books. The Spaniard has won all seven of his French Open titles in the last eight years, prompting the nickname "The King of Clay."
But could this year be any different? If Federer's play in Rome is any indication, it could very well be.
Federer had yet to give up three games in a set before his quarterfinal victory over Jerzy Janowicz, as he's red hot at the moment and is tearing through the field.
Nadal, on the other hand, has seen his fair share of struggles in the tournament. He boasted an absolutely awful first set in his 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Ernests Gulbis.
He also dropped his first set to David Ferrer before winning two straight to move onto the semifinals, further proving that he's just not on his game at the moment.
This lack of domination just further proves that Nadal's No. 5 world ranking isn't a fluke and that he perhaps could be slipping behind the group of elite players like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Federer.
Nadal better hope that changes and he can get things turned around before he heads to Paris. Even though he's all but one of the French Opens since 2004, Federer was the one exception in 2009 that knocked him temporarily off his throne.
On top of that, Federer is hungrier than ever to get back on the Grand Slam stage after only notching one major victory (2012 Wimbledon) since 2010.
Nadal's struggles, whether it be injury-related or on the court, have been well documented over the last 12 to 18 months and he could surely use another French Open title to add to his legacy and keep his current one from being blemished too much.
But if he looks across the bracket and sees Federer playing hot and motivated, it should scare the Spaniard who otherwise may have the French Open in the bag.
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