French Open 2011: Why Rafael Nadal Will Win

Michael DiProngsContributor IMay 21, 2011

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 French Open champion
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 French Open championClive Brunskill/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic's year has been amazing. Even if he does lose in the French Open—which I believe he will—he will still be remembered for dominating tennis in a fashion only seen with Tiger Woods in golf. Every match Djokovic played was suddenly closely scrutinized; Djokovic played the role of the Miami Heat in the NBA.

But even Djokovic himself will say that Rafa is still the King of Clay. Yes, Djokovic is 4-0 against Rafa this year, twice on clay finals of an ATP Masters tournament. But when it comes down to a five-setter in Rafael Nadal's favorite, most successful grand slam? Give me Rafael Nadal any day of the week.

Don't think Nadal isn't affected from his losses to The Joker, who has suddenly turned from the impersonation loving and guy-that-can't-stand-the-heat-and-has-to-retire Joker to more of The Joker found in Batman. Nadal now has the best motivation he needs to continue his reign as the King of Clay: to defend his title.

There can be no greater motivation for Nadal to come out strong and swinging. He loves the French Open, and the crowd loves him. Nadal is a stunning 38-1 on clay. His only loss came as a indirect result of injury, and Nadal often seemed unbeatable on clay even when playing at his best.

For all of Djokovic's success, if he does not win a few more majors, his nice little run in 2011 will go down in history as a footnote to his career, and interesting tidbit that would show up every once in a while. Grand Slams are no Masters tournaments; taking on Nadal in the French Open will be taking on a vastly different animal.

Just ask Andy Murray. Murray has had all kinds of successes in the Masters circuit, beating Roger Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and a whole list of other top-tier tennis players. But the pressure, grind, and ultimate playing experience of a five-set Grand Slam will be different, and will be the reason why Rafael Nadal ends Novak Djokovic's streak—assuming Djokovic gets that far—and successfully prove doubters that he still is the King of Clay.

Fun prediction: I predict that Djokovic's loss will probably be a shock loss in the first round of some tournament to a player I haven't heard of—just a feeling.