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2012 French Open Preview - Nadal and Djokovic chasing history
Heading into this year’s 2012 French Open, the focus will be on Novak Djokovic trying to become the first player since 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time and Rafa Nadal’s quest to surpass the great Bjorn Borg as the “King of Roland Garros”.
Edmonton - May 26, 2012 - Heading into this year’s 2012 French Open, there are two major story lines. The first being Novak Djokovic’s attempt to not only complete the career Grand Slam but become the first player since 1969 to hold all four Championships at the same time. The other will be Rafa Nadal’s quest to surpass the great Bjorn Borg as the “King of Roland Garros”. The two greats currently sit tied with six Coupe des Mousquetaires a piece, with the Spaniard on the verge of entering a whole new level of tennis royalty.
When discussing major titles one cannot forget about Roger Federer and his record setting sixteen Grand Slam titles but the spotlight will clearly be focused on his two rivals. There will be others in the running like number four seed Andy Murray and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro who is ranked ninth. Perhaps one of the Frenchmen like Gilles Simon or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could pull off a major upset and find themselves playing in the final weekend. Nonetheless, it would be a huge shock if the top three players in the world do not find themselves back in the semi-finals.
While much of the focus will be centered on Djokovic trying to accomplish one of the greatest feats in sport over the last thirty years, make no mistake, Nadal is the favourite. The second seed has an absurd all time mark of 45-1 on the clay courts in France, with his only loss coming at the hands of Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the 2009 championship. That defeat giving Roger Federer the opportunity to complete his career Grand Slam without having to beat the Majorcan on his favourite surface, a fact which does not go unnoticed by tennis historians. Who knows, if Soderling did not pull off that upset Federer could still be in search of that elusive final major.
As previously mentioned, Nadal enters the tournament with the chance of passing Borg for the most French Open titles in the history of the game but he also has something to prove. Though Rafa did manage to win last year’s championship, he did so without beating Djokovic. When one considers that the ten time Grand Slam winner dropped seven consecutive finals to the Serb, three of them in Slams and another two on the Spaniard’s favourite surface, there was definitely room to question Nadal and his game. With that being the case, he looks to be on a mission to reclaim his spot atop the tennis world and if recent results are any indication, he is clearly headed in the right direction.
With back-to-back wins over the number one seed in Monte-Carlo and Rome, there is no doubt as to who is the favourite coming in. While Djokovic will be looking to become only the fifth man in history to have won all four majors during his career, he does realize it will not be easy to take the title away from Nadal. If Novak returns to his ridiculous form of last season, he has a legitimate shot but anything short of that would mean Rafa would have to falter, in order for him to not claim his seventh crown.
The wild card in all this remains Federer. His brilliant performance in beating Djokovic in last year’s semis was one of the best individual performances of the season. That being said, he followed that up with his usual struggles against Nadal. After dropping two tight first sets, Roger fought back to take the third but then crumbled in the fourth. Unfortunately, it has become the norm for the Swiss legend when he faces his great rival but he still has the game to push him…even at Roland Garros. Problem being, he would have to play nearly error free tennis to not have that doubt creep in his head. At this point, dealing with Rafa is more mental than physical. The other potential issue for both he and Djokovic, will be the likelihood of facing one another in the semi-finals for a second consecutive year. Having to deal with each other and then taking on Nadal is a feat at the best of times but to pull it off at the French, seems almost like an impossible.
Highly regarded Canadian Milos Raonic comes in seeded nineteenth and finds himself on the defending champion’s side of the draw. While many look to Raonic as a dark horse because of his huge serve and his always improving game…don’t count on it. Now that the youngster is inside the top twenty, reaching the round of sixteen should not be looked upon as some sort of great achievement but rather an expectation. Having said that, if he manages to qualify for the final sixteen his opponent will, in all likelihood, be Nadal. In my mind, there is a better chance of Milos crashing out in the early rounds, then him seriously giving “The King of Clay” any sort of a push.
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