The world’s only claycourt Grand Slam is under way once again, at Roland Garros in Paris. The defending Champion, once again, is Rafael Nadal- and he is back at the French Open fitter than ever, having recovered fully from his knee injury.

With the withdrawal of Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro, there will be 3 main contenders for the 2013 French Open. In theory, there is always one contender and the others are playing for a spot in the final, but this year things could be a little different.

Rafael Nadal (3)
Seeded third in this year’s French Open, the Spaniard is already back to his best- less than 2 months after his comeback from injury. He demolished Federer at Rome a week ago in the final, and also won Madrid prior to that where he beat another Swiss player Wawrinka in the final. 
What stands out is not his stellar claycourt form once again, but the way he has adapted his game to go easy on his faulty knees- looking much more aggressive than previous years. That’s not to say his defensive game has gone down a level, it’s just that Djokovic’s defensive game is now better than Nadal’s- on all surfaces but clay. Nadal suffered an almighty jolt in last year’s Final when Djokovic went on a roll before rain interrupted his charge. This year, the two meet in the semi-finals, which could well work in favour of 31 year old Roger Federer- who seems to have a clear path to the final. While Nadal may fancy his chances against Federer in the final, the semi-final clash with Djokovic could well define his Grand Slam legacy- while he is gunning to be the only male tennis player ever to win 8 Grand Slams at the same venue. 
Or Usual Suspects?
Few would bet against it, but after his shaky first round game against World no. 61 Daniel Brands- Djokovic must well feel that this is the year he joins the two with the completion of his Golden Slam.

Novak Djokovic (1)
The World No. 1 has gone off the boil a bit since winning the Australian Open in January. That was will he came out of nowhere after a tricky knee-injury during Davis Cup Play and beat Nadal on clay in the Monte Carlo Final. He did it with a certain kind of dominance where he beat Nadal at his own game again- and he is the only realistic obstacle between Nadal and his record-breaking 8th French Open title. The Serb had marked 2012 as the year he achieved immortality, but unfortunately, he could only win the Australian Open- where the top 4 shared the 4 Slams, and failed to win an Olympic medal too. Still at his prime, Djokovic will look to make amends in 2013, starting with that elusive French Open, where he could finally end the Spaniard’s domination. 
Future Perfect?
One gets the feeling that if not for Rafael Nadal, players like Djokovic and Federer would have won atleast a couple of French Open titles each- not succumbing to the popular notion that they are not as good on clay as they are on other surfaces. Both, in fact, began their careers on clay- and are only second best to the greatest claycourt player of all time.

Roger Federer (2)
This is practically Federer’s best chance to reach a Grand Slam Final this year. Ironically, it is the French Open- where he does not enjoy the best record, but still would fancy his chances against a player like Djokovic in the final. Two years ago, he shocked everyone by playing the best match of the year to beat Djokovic in the semi-final before the Serb had his revenge in 2012. Without Murray in his draw, Federer- for the first time in years- will not have to face any of the 3 right till the final. His semi-final opponent could be the tireless David Ferrer, over whom Federer enjoys a 13-0 record.
With Berdych losing first round to Monfils, Federer’s most problematic opponent could be the mercurial Tsonga in the quarter-finals. Federer is trying to reach his first Slam final since his Wimbledon victory in 2012, and trying to win his first tournament since the Cincinnati Masters in October 2012. 

Djokovic will pull off the upset of the year and defeat Nadal in the semi-finals, and could go on to defeat Federer in the finals. It is difficult to see the Serb being beaten in Slam Play nowadays, after he has mastered the art of peaking at the right times in a tennis season.

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