The 2011 French Open on the men's side is progressing just as most people had expected, with the three top heavyweights—world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, No. 2 Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Roger Federer—still in play as the tournament enters its final week.
Only one will emerge as champion at Roland Garros, and my money (proverbially speaking) is on Djokovic.
I could give you 10 strongly opinionated, well-formulated arguments as to why the "Djoker" will come out on top. But people today trust nothing more than numbers. So I present to you the 10 key numbers that demonstrate why everything is set up for Djokovic to take home his first French Open title.
(A top-10 list involving nothing but numbers? Dare I say, that's downright meta.)
Novak Djokovic has been the hottest player on tour this year, winning 42 consecutive matches in 2011 and 43 straight overall.
The Open-era record for most consecutive victories is currently held by Guillermo Vilas, who won 46 matches in a row during the 1977 season.
If Djokovic is going to break the record, it will take place after the French Open concludes. But he still has to finish the job in Paris if he even wants a chance at history.
It goes without saying that Djokovic has the strongest momentum going in the entire men's draw. That will continue to be a major factor as he reaches the end of the tournament.
Sure, the clay court extraordinaire still has the edge in their rivalry, leading Djokovic 16-11 overall. But Djokovic's recent surge has also included victory on Nadal's home turf.
Djokovic took down Nadal in the finals at the 2011 Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open played in Spain.
And, for those who don't know, that tournament was played on clay as well.
He has zero confidence, saying, "I am not playing well enough to win this tournament the way I played. That's the truth."
If anyone knows what it takes to win at Roland Garros, it's Nadal, which makes this personal assessment all the more intriguing. It could, perhaps, be a very elaborate attempt at getting inside the heads of his opponents, but I believe few would suspect that from Nadal.
With Djokovic's confidence likely at an all-time high, Nadal's self-doubt only plays further into his mental advantage. Of course, it's the physical battle that ultimately determines the victor, but one must not underestimate the influence of what goes on between the players' ears.
So what about Djokovic's other primary opponent? Well, Roger Federer has bested Djokovic more often than not during their head-to-head matchups, holding a 13-9 overall lead.
But Djokovic has continually given Federer difficulty during the last two majors. He eliminated Federer in the semifinals of both the 2010 U.S. Open and this year's Australian Open.
If the two meet again in the French Open, it will be in, you guessed it, the semifinals. Once more, history and momentum are on the Serbian's side.
If Djokovic is to follow Nadal and Federer and complete a tennis "trivalry," this French Open would be an appropriate Grand Slam for him to win.
This is the 26th major in which Djokovic has competed. Nadal and Federer each won the 26th major in which they competed (after qualifying). For Nadal, it was the 2010 U.S. Open, and for Federer, it was the 2005 U.S. Open.
Sure, it wouldn't be much more than an interesting coincidence, but it would signify a connection of sorts between tennis's most prominent male stars of today.
Djokovic is well within reach of the world's No. 1 overall ranking.
To be fair, Djokovic doesn't have to win the French Open in order to knock current No. 1 Nadal from the top spot. In fact, even if Nadal comes out the champion, he and Djokovic can still swap rankings. (See the chart here.)
But Djokovic can complete his coup in convincing fashion if he usurps Nadal in Nadal's most favorable venue. That would certainly be the most satisfying sequence of events—not that calculating points which the majority of tennis fans don't understand isn't riveting in itself.
At least since the beginning of this year, that is. Djokovic's nutritionist discovered last year that the tennis star is allergic to gluten, which is found in many flour products. Djokovic has since committed himself to a gluten-free diet.
He reports feeling stronger on the court and, well, the results speak for themselves.
Unless Nadal starts chucking pretzels and pizza at Djokovic during the French Open final, there is little he can do to stop him.
Novak Djokovic has twice been named The Best Sportsperson of Serbia, and he is well on his way to his third award.
Not to imply that he doesn't have much competition, but a potential record-breaking winning streak accompanied by his second Grand Slam title of the year would be a tough act to top, would it not?
Surely this kind of national pride will serve as another source of motivation for Djokovic as he finishes off his remaining opponents.
Novak Djokovic was recently awarded with the Order of St. Sava, the highest decoration of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Through his dedication to the Church as well as his love for his fellow Serbian devotees, Djokovic earned this high honor in late April. It is not outlandish to propose that this ultimate spiritual enhancement may have helped inspire Djokovic during his exceptional play.
Djokovic recently turned 24 years old.
In French Open terms, 24 is a significant age Three of the most noteworthy champions at Roland Garros—Björn Borg, Ivan Lendl and Rafael Nadal—all won when they were 24 years old.
Of course, they won at many other ages as well—the trio won 14 French Open titles total—but that shouldn't stop Djokovic from channeling the energy he may share with past (and present) greats.