French Open 2013: Rafael Nadal vs. Stan Wawrinka Has Instant-Classic Potential

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French Open 2013: Rafael Nadal vs. Stan Wawrinka Has Instant-Classic Potential
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Buckle up: Rafael Nadal vs. Stanislas Wawrinka is about to be one thrilling roller coaster ride. 

Of course, judging by the history of these two, expecting anything more than a Rafa romp might just turn out to be a huge mistake.

In nine career matchups, the Spaniard has never dropped a set to Wawrinka. Combine that with his sublime transcendence at Roland Garros, and it's sort of like the perfect storm for an embarrassing blowout. 

But this time around, something feels different. 

Maybe it's the fact that Wawrinka is playing the best tennis of his once promising career.

He absolutely crushed Andy Murray and fought Jo-Wilfried Tsonga hard at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. He defeated David Ferrer to win the Portugal Open. He made it to the finals at the Mutua Mardid Open, where he eventually fell to Nadal. 

Maybe it's the way he has advanced to the quarterfinals. 

He has always had the physical attributes and talent necessary to be a star while the mental game has failed him. But his two-sets-to-love comeback against Richard Gasquet showcased ice-cold veins and rock-steady nerves. 

Maybe it's the fact that clay is his best surface, and his first quarterfinal appearance in Paris is just another suggestion he has finally put it all together. 

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Maybe it's the fact that he hit top form right around the time he hired Magnus Norman, the same coach who guided Robin Soderling to two French Open finals and the only ever victory over Nadal at Roland Garros.

I'm not exactly sure what it is, but Wawrinka feels destined for a magical run in Paris.

It doesn't exactly hurt that, while still dominant, Nadal, who is recovering from a serious knee injury, hasn't quite looked like the King of Clay. 

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He dropped sets against Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan, needed tiebreakers against Brands and Fabio Fognini and has made too many unforced errors in his last two matches. 

How many sets will this match last?

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Don't get me wrong. I'm still not crazy enough to predict an upset for Wawrinka. Nadal is still Nadal, and he still usually crushes one-handed backhanders. Moreover, the Swiss international could be tired after his grueling battle with Gasquet

But while the favorite will eventually prevail, it is going to take a scintillating, back-and-forth match to get to that result. 

 

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