Rafael Nadal: 5 Reasons His Early French Open Struggles Could Help Later on

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Rafael Nadal: 5 Reasons His Early French Open Struggles Could Help Later on
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal has had to fight through two tough matches in the opening rounds at the 2011 French Open at Roland Garros.

Nadal was surprisingly pushed to a fifth set in the first round by American John Isner. He lost two tiebreakers in the match, both by the score, 7-2. If Isner's legs hadn't given out on him in the final two sets, it could have been an even bigger scare for Nadal.

In the next round, it was fellow countryman Pablo Andujar who gave Nadal fits. Although Andujar wasn't able to win a set, he was close in each one. Two sets lasted over an hour, with the final set concluding in 92 long minutes and a narrow tiebreak triumph for Nadal.

Nadal has never been this troubled in the early rounds of his favorite Grand Slam, usually posting multiple 6-0 sets in these rounds. In fact, the five-time French Open champion has seen two of his slams earned without dropping a set.

In 2008, Nadal surrendered just 41 games in 21 sets on the clay. This year, Nadal has already lost 38 games in just two matches. His struggles have people questioning if he's still dominant on the surface, especially with two consecutive straight-set losses to Novak Djokovic on clay this year.

Here are five reasons to see the silver lining in Nadal's challenges, and why he'll turn "struggle" into success.

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