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It's the worst he's looked in years at a major, no doubt about it. Even when up match point against John Isner in that memorable first-round encounter, I wasn't supremely confident Nadal would pull it out—and usually, match point down on clay against El Rey means you're pan tostada.
Toast. Get it?
Moving past my awkward forays into Spanish puns, I'll say that never before have I been more confident that Nadal would take this title.
I think he'll most certainly have his hands full with big-serving Ivan Ljubicic in the fourth round. I think Robin Soderling will look to build upon his reputation as the only player to beat Nadal at Roland Garros if they end up clashing in the quarters. I think any one of the four guys in the section below him—Murray, Troicki, Falla and Chela—could put up a more-than-game fight in the semifinals.
Still though, Rafael Nadal and the French Open are forever intertwined.
When the Spaniard arrives in Paris, he has an undeniably powerful aura about him—world No.1 ranking or not, King of Clay or not. He loves this tournament, and even when not playing his best, he will fight tooth and nail to make sure the other guy has to play remarkable tennis to take him down, especially on his beloved clay.
I think Nadal's overwhelmingly easy victory over qualifier Antonio Veic in the third round will do him a world of good, probably not in the confidence department, but physically and mentally, he'll have a couple relaxing days ahead. His subpar form the first couple rounds will surely increase the pressure on Robin Soderling's shoulders if they meet in the elite eight, and Nadal's biggest potential competitor in the semis is nursing a horrible ankle injury.
I think he'll effectively scrape his way to the final—perhaps not in the most confident fashion, but he'll act like it was.
And then, the final.
As I forecasted a couple slides ago, I really believe Fed will end Djokovic's unfathomable streak. If that's the case, Nadal will be waiting to reap the benefits.
Mentally, it can be said Nadal has Federer beat at the moment—particularly on a surface like clay. And it could be the titanic effort of sinking the bloated Djokovic boat wears Federer out enough that Nadal pounces on a weary opponent. Even if, begrudgingly, my prediction is wrong, and Roger does crash out to Novak, I'll still go with Nadal for the win.
Predicting someone will beat Nadal three straight times on clay isn't bold...
It's clinically insane.