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French Open 2018: The King of Clay Goes for Record 11th Title

The tennis world shifts its focus to Paris as Rafael Nadal is once again set to defend his throne at the 2018 French Open.

Nadal, the reigning champion, will hold off other tennis players at the 2018 Roland-Garros men’s singles tournament. The King of Clay remains a clear favorite to win the tournament, having won a record of 10 titles since his first in 2005.

The Spanish superstar is coming in from a victorious campaign in Rome, where he won the clay Italian Open. The win puts his clay win-loss record at 408-36, or a whopping 92 percent win rate–a number making him worthy of being called King. Still, Nadal remained humble as he downplayed his stellar performance in Rome.

He said:

“Conditions in Paris [and Rome] are completely different. I don’t’ believe that what happened, even if I lost – even with a victory – creates a big impact about what can happen in Paris

Tennis experts and analysts have picked Nadal, as is clay tradition, to pick up his momentous 11th French Open trophy. Bookmaker bet365 sets Nadal at 4/11, an overwhelming pick to finish the tournament as winner.

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Second Best Out

One notable absence is men’s rank two smasher Roger Federer. The 36-year-old Swiss veteran has missed the last three French Open tournaments, including this one, to maintain a title-winning physique despite his aging body. Federer playing fewer tournaments contributed to his success in the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Australian Open.

In a statement, he wrote:

“[In] order to try and play on the ATP World Tour for many years to come, I feel it’s best to skip the clay court season this year and prepare for the grass and hard court seasons. I need to recognize that scheduling will be the key to my longevity moving forward. Thus, the team and I concluded… that playing just one event on clay was not in the best interest of my tennis and physical preparation.”

Federer, in his title-laden career, won only a single French Open championship back in 2009. He reached the finals four times only to lose to Nadal in all occasions.

Also on the injury list is three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray. The 30 year-old British is still recovering from a hip surgery, and is scheduled to return to grass court action on June 11 at the Libema Open.

Is Nole Back?

An elbow injury has sapped Novak Djokovic’s entire tennis prowess away. The former world number one has underwhelmed in tournaments prior to his right elbow giving up at the 2017 Wimbledon, and even in matches after his half-a-year rehabilitation. Now, he enters the courts of Paris after a promising performance in the Italian Open, wherein he lost to Nadal in the semifinals.

Djokovic, speaking about that game, said:

“Looking back two or three months, this is the best that I’ve felt on the court, by far. I don’t think that there was too much of a difference [in play], which is great for me, because Rafa [Nadal] is… the best player ever to play tennis on clay courts…

I thought the level of my tennis was very high.”

The 12-time Grand Slam champion hopes to defeat his inner demons and carry his Rome performance to the French clay courts. Bookmaker bet365 sees Djokovic winning at 12/1, making him one of the favorites to reach the semifinals.

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Young Challengers

Promising youngsters are posed to challenge the established ruler, as 21 year-old Alexander Zverev and 24-year-old Dominic Thiem are priced as favorites to reach the final round.

Zverev, an aggressive baseliner, will arrive at the Parisian courts reeling from his Italian Open defeat from the hands of Nadal. The German was the reigning champion of Rome before his 13-game winning streak was ended by the Spaniard.

Thiem, a young single-handed backhand player, is buoyed by his recent victory in the Lyon Open final. The French, in the Madrid Open earlier this May, snapped Nadal’s 21-match unbeaten streak on clay courts. He reached the French Open semifinals in the past two editions, only losing to would-be champions Djokovic and Nadal.

For both the hotshots, the French Open could become their breakthrough tournament. Zverev and Thiem, both yet to reach the Grand Slam final stage, pose as favorites to possibly challenge for the trophy. Bookmaker bet365 has men’s number three Zverev at 15/2 and number eight Thiem at 11/1

Serena Williams Returns

The French Open marks the return of arguably the most dominant female tennis player in the Open era, Serena Williams. Absent for more than half a year after she gave birth to her first child, the 36-year-old American has to battle once again to climb the summit of women’s tennis. Even though unseeded and rusty, both due to inactivity, analysts expect the 23-time Grand Slam champion to reach the latter stages with bet365 placing her at 14/1.

In the absence of a peak Williams and the first-round defeat of reigning French Open women’s champion Jelena Ostapenko, the women’s singles title is up for grabs to virtually the top 10 players in the field.

Two-time winner Maria Sharapova and 2016 winner Garbine Muguruza have the same odds as Williams. Petra Kvitova, who impressed experts with her 2018 display, is priced at 12/1 while women’s number one Simona Halep is at 6/1. Italian Open champion Elina Svitolina is the slight favorite to win the whole women’s tournament, with bookies having her at 11/2.

The 2018 Roland-Garros Men’s Single Semifinals will start on June 6, while the Women’s Single Semifinals will start on June 7.

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