Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer: Rafa's Convincing Win Ups Ante at French Open

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Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer: Rafa's Convincing Win Ups Ante at French Open
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal bulldozed Roger Federer in straight sets to win the Rome Masters.

That impressive victory simply vaults the ante at the 2013 French Open, because Nadal's momentum is continuing to build.

Prior to the Italian Open, he fell to Novak Djokovic in Monaco but then followed up with victories in Barcelona and Madrid. Italy was his third consecutive tournament victory and sixth overall in 2013.

As Russell Fuller of BBC Sport wrote, Nadal's form is looking good right now:

Nadal heads to the French Open in tremendous form as he looks to win an Open-era record eighth title at Roland Garros, and knowing he is likely to be seeded fourth - and so potentially avoid leading rival Novak Djokovic until the semi-finals.

And speaking of the Roland Garros seedings, he is No. 4 according to ATPWorldTour.com:

Rafael Nadal will overtake David Ferrer for World No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday. The result has huge implications for Roland Garros, as Nadal's No. 4 seeding guarantees the seven-time champion cannot meet World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 2 Andy Murray or No. 3 Federer before the semi-finals.

In order to prevent Nadal from winning his eighth French Open in the last nine years, though, the rest of the field must step up.

Since defeating Nadal, Djokovic was upset in Round 2 in Madrid by Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. He then was unable to close the deal against Tomas Berdych in Italy. After taking the first set, Berdych edged by in the second and controlled the momentum for the third en route to winning.

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Djokovic has proven to defeat Nadal before, and even on clay as previously seen in 2013. That said, Roland Garros is a different story. Not only will the magnitude of it be greater, but Nadal also worked Djokovic in 2012's final.

As for Federer, he fell to Berdych in Dubai's semifinals, Nadal in the Indian Wells quarterfinals and was upset by Kei Nishikori of Japan in Round 3 of Madrid. Include Rafa's dominant win on Sunday and Federer must also up his game for France.

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Regarding other top competition, Andy Murray's status remains up in the air. In an article by Mike Dickson of the Daily Mail, Murray withdrew from the Italian Open and has yet to make a decision on Roland Garros:

The world No 2, 26 on Wednesday, pulled out of the Italian Open with a recurrence of lower back problems, and afterwards he cast heavy doubt on his chances of playing at the French Open, which begins in 10 days’ time.

‘I would be very surprised if I was playing in Paris,’ said Murray.

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Even worse, Murray wasn't playing his best prior to the Rome Masters. Although he won in Miami over David Ferrer, Murray flopped in Round 3 of Monaco to Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland. Berdych then fended him off during Madrid's quarterfinals before the Italian Open.

Now one common denominator mentioned thus far has been Berdych. Despite solid match wins in 2013, though, he still dropped to Nadal on the clay in Italy (6-2, 6-4). Elsewhere, Nadal's fellow countryman David Ferrer has lost to him three times this season.

So, clearly Berdych and Ferrer must also raise their ability for the French Open to challenge Nadal.

He's just playing the best of anyone right now, which only enhances the Spaniard's confidence as we hit the summer months. Even though another victory at the Roland Garros would not be surprising, doing so drastically bolsters Nadal's momentum for the remainder of 2013.

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