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Michael Taylor 21st May 2009 - 10:17

Nadal to fall...you're having a laugh

As far as I'm concerned you can hand the title to Rafael Nadal even before the first ball of the 108th French Open has been hit.

The Spanish world number one goes in search of a fifth successive title and, barring a shock straight sets defeat to Roger Federer in the recent Madrid Masters final, his form more than justifies his 4/11 favourite tag.

In fact, for punters, his defeat at the hands of the Fed-Express was great news (unless you backed him for outright Madrid Masters success of course) as his price has actually drifted out from 1/3.

My advice, get on him now before he shortens again.

He's only lost one match on clay this season; he has become the ultimate grand slam event player and, most importantly, he has never lost at Roland Garros.

Add in that he's vying to pass the record of winning four successive championships with which he currently shares with the great Bjorn Borg then you get the feeling that Rafa is not only here to break records but also confirm the idea that he is the greatest clay courter ever.

Personally I think there is only one thing that can stop him....injury - although he would still have a chance of winning even if he was forced to play with a broken leg!

Nadal's domination doesn't necessarily mean the betting opportunities are limited though as there are still a good number of each way options floating about.

None more so perhaps than the ever improving Juan Martin del Potro at a stonking 40/1.

The lanky Argentine fell casualty to a rampant Roger (Federer) in Madrid last week but he did more than enough en route to the semi-final to suggest a grand slam challenge is possible in the near future.

He may not have the natural grace or style of a Nadal, Federer or Djokovic but he grew up on the clay and has the ability to over-power any opponent on his day.

Meanwhile, one person I will be watching with intent over the fortnight is the aforementioned Novak Djokovic.

His price of 13/2 doesn't look to carry any real value to me, especially when you consider he's never made a final in Paris.

However, after a miserable end to 2008 and a poor start to '09 he finally looks to have regained the form that took him up to number three in the world.

He's also caused Nadal a problem or two already this season which has been a rarity - it'll be interesting to see whether he can carry this momentum into the tournament.

As for Federer and Andy Murray I would be very reluctant to touch either at 13/2 or 10/1 respectively.

Federer looked as good as ever when winning the Madrid Masters but that's only one tournament and I'd be very concerned about his performance in last year's final when he was destroyed by Nadal - and, if anything, the gap between the two has widened over the course of the past year.

My final word of advice though is to avoid Murray like the plague.

The Scot has looked out of his depth all season long on the clay with miserable exits in both the Rome and Madrid Masters and the final straw came in a dismal performance against Paul-Henri Mathieu in the Guinot Mary Cohr Masters this week.

One positive for the pride of Scotland is that he is likely to get a head start on his rivals in the wake of the start of the grass court season.

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