French Open Men's Preview

French Open Men's Preview

French Open men's preview: New rivalry at the top
By Jon Campbell

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The No. 1 story on several major sports websites read “Rivalry Renewed” after Roger Federer downed clay court king Rafael Nadal in two sets in the final of the Madrid masters series last week.

Could this be the year Fed finally takes down his on-court nemesis and claims the only grand slam that has eluded him? Maybe Rafa is finally showing a chink in the armor and this was just the confidence boost Fed needed.

As the French would say, “I dun’t sink so!”

The media outlets that featured these headlines can’t be blamed. They’re just trying to get your mouse clicks. I can’t blame them. We want your clicks too. But we also don’t want you to lose your shirt.

What I’m saying is, don’t take Fed to win the French Open. Even though he is the second favorite. Even though you can get him at a very tempting price of +600.

He’s not going to win it.

The truth is, Fed faced an emotionally and physically exhausted Rafa in last weekend’s final.  Nadal took down Novak Djokovic in the semis the day before in the longest – and maybe best – match in masters series history. If you didn’t see the four-hour epic duel, you may have just missed the best match of the season.

It was the fourth time Nadal has beaten Djokovic this year (all on clay), but the Djoker took the first set and pushed the next two sets to tiebreakers. Djokovic played masterful tennis while mixing up shots, serving aces and keeping Rafa on the run every bit as much as he was.

Djokovic showed a fearlessness we haven’t seen from him on clay before and even pushed Nadal to two match points in the third set. He hit a do-or-die drop shot from out of nowhere late in that set that led to a point, which isn’t the type of thing we’re used to seeing from anyone other than Fed or Nadal in that type of pressure spot.

But Nadal clawed like he always does and pulled out the win, even though it was ultimately a Pyrrhic victory.

The Pyrrhic part didn’t really matter. What does matter is that there isn’t a “rivalry renewed” in men’s tennis, there’s a new rivalry. And Nadal knew he couldn’t let his new best competition leave Spain thinking he’d found a way to beat him.

Djokovic is only one of two players to win a set on clay against Nadal this year (Nalbandian is the other) and is the only one with a real shot at taking down Nadal in Paris. The Djoker is currently listed as the third favorite at +800 and he’s probably the only underdog you need to take a risk with.

The question is, can he overcome his wussy tendencies that often leave him calling for the trainer in tight matches? You also have to wonder what his mental state is like after he just played the match of his life and came up short.

Nadal has been known to reduce his best competition to tears. Don’t let him do the same to you. Lay the chalk once again with Rafa on the dirt.

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