Rafael Nadal Will Cruise Through 2013 French Open

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Rafael Nadal Will Cruise Through 2013 French Open
Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Will anyone match Rafael Nadal on clay?

Until dethroned, Spain's Rafael Nadal is the king of clay, and the 2013 French Open will continue this trend.

Expect the end result to be the same old story, because Nadal is far ahead of his top competition on clay.

For one, there's no Andy Murray at Roland Garros, as he has withdrawn due to a back injury according to BBC Sport:

Second, Juan Martin del Potro is also out with an illness as reported by Tennis World:

The withdrawals on the men's side at the French Open continues with world No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro becoming the second big name to withdraw officially from the second grand slam of the season.

Potro flew back to Argentina on the week to get treated for a respiratory illness.

Although neither was likely to compete with Nadal on clay, dwindling the number of top challengers only makes the Roland Garros that much easier.

Entering France's clay Grand Slam at No. 4 in the ATP rankings, Nadal is the No. 3 seed and unsurprising favorite with Murray out. Having won seven of the previous eight French Opens, Nadal has taken three in a row, and Novak Djokovic is his only true competition.

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Djokovic defeated Nadal earlier this season in Monaco, but the Spaniard has significantly vaulted his play since. In addition, Djokovic fell to Nadal at the 2012 French Open in four sets.

And that happened when he was arguably at the top of his game. Djokovic had entered last season's Roland Garros with three straight Grand Slam victories, each of which came over Nadal in the finals.

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Instead, he was still no match for Rafa on the French clay, and this year he has shown even less promise.

Djokovic struggled with early exits in Madrid and Italy after defeating Nadal, while the clay master has won three consecutive tournaments (Barcelona, Madrid, Rome). These are two top players headed in exact opposite directions, which only favors Nadal that much more.

Elsewhere, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych are strong contenders but remain well behind Nadal on clay. Just like Roger Federer.

Ferrer has fallen to Rafa three times this season, and Berdych and Federer are each 0-2 against him.

Allow Greg Garber of ESPN.com to put Nadal's French Open mastery in perspective:

Rafa has played in eight French Opens and won an unprecedented seven titles. His record there is an astonishing 52-1, the highest standard ever by any player at any grand slam.

Rafa's combined set record is a splendid 156-14 (.918), and he has scored 41 straight-set wins. For what it's worth, he's also a perfect 8-0 against left-handers and 44-1 against righties.

It doesn't matter who he's against or whether they're right- or left-handed—Nadal will get it done.

Combine all the elements of Rafa's French Open equation and he is the unequivocal favorite, despite being the No. 3 seed. Roland Garros is his tournament to lose, and we might as well sit back and just appreciate his dominance on clay.

It'll be a long time before anyone matches that level of consistency on any surface.

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