By Thomas Reynolds
Last Updated: 22nd May 2019
Rafael Nadal warmed up for the French Open by steamrollering his rivals in Rome, losing just one of the 11 sets he contested and winning seven of them 6-0 or 6-1.
The man from Majorca is the EVS favourite in the French Open 2019 men’s outright betting, with 9/4 shot Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem (11/2) the only other players trading at odds inside of 20/1.
Yet there’s an air of vulnerability about Nadal on his preferred surface ahead of his bid for a colossal 12th title at Roland Garros, the like of which hasn’t been seen for seasons.
Rarely seen levels of dirt fallibility from Rafa on this clay court swing
Counterintuitively for a clay-court colossus who’s just demolished his final French Open tune-up tournament, Nadal is in the midst of one of his most moderate dirt campaigns for years.
However, unlike 2018, when he took out three of the four pre-Paris clay competitions he entered, victory in Rome this month was the Spaniard’s first trophy on dirt since landing his 11th title at Roland Garros 12 months ago.
Fabio Fognini lowered his colours in the semi-final en route to victory in Monte Carlo, before Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas ejected him at the same stage in Barcelona and Madrid.
Magic in Madrid 🇬🇷🙌
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) May 11, 2019
Across all three reversals Rafa drifted through periods of susceptibility on serve and also found his forehand lacked some of its usual metronomic reliability.
Three losses in a clay term may not seem like a great deal for most, but when you’re Nadal it’s a sign that you’re not firing on all cylinders.
Including the season in which he won his first Grand Slam title in Paris as a teenager back in 2005, the 32-year-old has lost more than twice on clay in just four of 14 completed campaigns.
Three of those came in consecutive years, when injuries took their toll between 2014 and 2016 and he won just one of three French Opens.
However, Rafa’s renaissance over the past two campaigns has seen him re-assert on the dirt, copping just one ‘L’ on the surface in both 2017 and 2018.
Three poised to depose the Prince of Paris should he falter at Roland-Garros
Casting an eye down the French Open 2019 men’s outright betting odds, the bookies appear to have things about right in terms of those who could profit from any potential dip in Nadal’s dominance.
The draw will play a huge part in determining if any each-way value surfaces, but Djokovic, defiant in the middle set of his 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 loss to his rival in Rome and Thiem are the only men to have bested the Spaniard four times on clay.
At more substantial odds of 66/1, the enigmatic Fognini, the only other still-operational player to have bested Rafa more than twice on dirt, has the game on his day.
Meanwhile, among the more youthful challengers, Tsitsipas has the big-match mettle having defeated Djokovic, Federer and Nadal inside the last 12 months.