Rafael Nadal is back to his near-peak form at his favorite and best slam. Now in the semifinals, Nadal must fight his way through unlikely challenger Jurgen Melzer to book his place in the finals.
Most, if not all, experts agree that it would be extremely unlikely for Nadal to lose to Melzer who is making his first appearance in a slam semifinal. In fact, most believe the match will be a relatively quick three-setter. In the end nothing more than a warm-up for the final which could prove to be helpful.
So what about the other side of the draw? Could it be Robin Soderling who meets Rafa in the final or Thomas Berdych?
Certainly if there was a matchup in the tournament nearly as tantalizing as a Nadal/Federer final it would be between Nadal and the man who took him out in the fourth round last year.
But Berdych is no walk-over. He's been playing brilliant tennis and will probably give Soderling a real stern test or even possibly meet Rafa in his first slam final.
But the question on my mind is will Rafael Nadal let himself lose this final regardless of who is on the other side of the net?
To be quite honest, I don't think he will lose.
Nadal has a trifecta of reasons for winning Roland Garros.
If we are to believe that Rafa is fully healthy, then the combination of that health, plus a chance to regain his crown and the number one ranking are three reasons I believe he will not let himself lose.
For all of their recent successes on clay, Soderling, Berdych, and Melzer are all in varying degrees susceptible to choking when it matters most.
While beating Nadal in the fourth round last year was certainly admirable, Nadal's injuries show that his health was in serious question and it is a far different match facing possibly the best clay-courter of all-time in the final as opposed to a fourth round match.
Pressure will play a big part though. Nadal will be pressured to win again to prove last year was a fluke, but is that pressure worse than any other year when Federer stood across the net?
Is the pressure worse when after two consecutive years of Federer beating him at Wimbledon, Rafa had to take him down on his home turf?
No, I don't believe it is. He will want to win certainly, and I believe he is probably hungrier for this slam since Wimbledon and possibly his first French final, but comparable to other great and pressure-filled moments? I think not.
Regardless of who he faces across the net on Sunday, I fully believe that Rafael Nadal will be holding the Coupe des Mousquetaires and smiling happily afterwards.
So here are my predictions:
Nadal d. Melzer in three sets (6-2, 6-4, 6-2)
Soderling d. Berdych in five sets (6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3)
Nadal d. Soderling in four sets (6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3)
If Berdych defeats Soderling:
Nadal d. Berdych in four sets (6-1, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3)