Greatest Threats to Rafael Nadal's 8th French Open Title

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Greatest Threats to Rafael Nadal's 8th French Open Title
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Given the way Rafael Nadal has been dominating men's tennis since February, it's hard to imagine any other player winning the 2013 French Open.

Nadal has entered eight tournaments, winning six. He has lost just two of 38 matches since returning from his seven-month layoff in February—both of which occurred in the final match of a tournament.

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His victory over Roger Federer in the men's final at the Rome Masters was as dominant a performance as you'll ever see. He won the match 6-1, 6-3, causing Federer to say in an interview afterwards, "Rafa was just too good today," (h/t ATPWorldTour.com). 

Clearly, Nadal is playing his best—or at least nearly his best—tennis right now. 

In last year's French Open, before his knees gave out, Nadal was brilliant. He didn't lose a single set until the final that year, when he lost one set to Novak Djokovic

At one point during his semifinals match against David Ferrer, tennis analyst Rennae Stubbs was so enamored by his brilliance that she sent this message out on her official Twitter account:

Judging by Nadal's recent run of excellence, it's clear he's the top favorite to win at Roland Garros this year.  Surely there are a few players that could stop his epic run, right?

Here are a few men who have the talent, skill and experience to knock Nadal off his current perch atop the men's tennis world.

 

Novak Djokovic

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Djokovic has already defeated Nadal once this year on clay.

You can't have a list of contenders that doesn't include the No. 1 player in the world. 

Sure, Djokovic has hit a mini-slump of late, having been ousted early in Madrid and then losing in the quarterfinals to Tomas Berdych in the Rome Masters. That said, he's one of two men who have beaten Nadal this year.

His victory over Nadal at Monte Carlo was also the last time Nadal lost, and it's safe to say Nadal is playing better now that he was back in mid-April.

Still, Djokovic is the most complete player in the world. He can chase down Nadal's volleys all day long, possesses the world's best backhand and has gotten progressively better at the French Open in recent years.

Finally, Djokovic has won three matches against Nadal the past six times they met on clay. Should the two meet up at any point in this year's French Open, it's safe to say it'll be the most highly anticipated matchup on the men's side.

 

David Ferrer

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Ferrer is a tough, scrappy player with the speed to keep up with Nadal.

Nadal leapfrogged past Ferrer in the ATP World Rankings recently with his win in Rome, but the No. 5 player in the world is capable of taking that spot right back at the French Open. 

It's been two years since Ferrer defeated Nadal, and his head-to-head record against his fellow Spaniard isn't pretty. Nadal has won 19 matches in his career against Ferrer, while only losing four. 

That said, Ferrer pushed Nadal to three sets both of the last two times the players met on the court, and he has already won on clay this year in Buenos Aires.

Though Ferrer doens't possess an overpowering serve, his agility and quickness serve him well on slippery clay courts. He posted his best French Open finish last year when he reached the semifinals, and it won't be a shock to see him do even better in 2013.

 

Roger Federer

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It's easy to take a look at how easily Nadal dispatched Federer in the final at the Rome Masters and assume he can't defeat his rival right now.

To do so would be unwise, however.

Is Federer too rusty right now to win, or will he shake off the rust in time for a big run at Roland Garros?

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Federer actually looked decent throughout the tournament, winning his first four matches in straight sets. It was an encouraging sign for him and his fans, as FedEx has been awfully rusty of late since his return from a two-month layoff.

Frankly, it will be somewhat of a shock if Federer ends up winning the French Open this year, but if anyone can get sharp in a hurry for this tournament, it's him.

If he gets his first serve in play with force and accuracy and is able to get through the early rounds without much of a struggle, Federer could defeat Nadal at Roland Garros.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78

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