Nadal and Djokovic begin French Open campaigns

The nine-time champion and defending champion are both in action today

BY Rob Fanning 12:25 Monday 29 May 2017, 12:25 29 May 2017

Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic will be looking to get off to fast starts as the second major of the year gets into full swing.

Nadal will be seeking a record-breaking tenth title when he takes on the tricky French man Benoit Paire. Djokovic also has a tough opening match as he faces Spain's Marcel Granollers.

Rafa has had an exceptional season so far. Injury has been a real concern for the Spaniard over the last number of years but his form has skyrocketed in recent months and deservedly the bookmakers have him as the odds-on favourite. Nadal’s form this year has seen him climb back into the top-four in the world, narrowly behind Stan Wawrinka, Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Nadal has already won 36 matches this season. He has lost just six and four of those losses came in finals (three of those finals were against Roger Federer).

Nadal has only lost twice at Roland Garros. In the 2009 Fourth Round to now retired swede Robin Soderling and to Djokovic in the quarter-finals in 2015. His record on clay in five-set matches is an incredible 95-2. He was forced to pull out of the competition in the second round last year due to a sore wrist.

Now almost 31-years-old, Nadal is trying to become the first player since tennis turned professional in 1968 to win ten titles in any Grand Slam. Australia’s Margaret Court is the only player with ten or more grand slam singles titles at a single major, taking the Australian Open crown on 11 occasions: in 1960-66, 1969-71, and 1973.

Nadal won 81 straight matches on clay between 2005 and 2007, the longest winning streak on the surface.

On the other hand world number two Novak Djokovic has not had the best of seasons by his standards. He has won 20 times and lost six, but he has only one title to his name, which came against Andy Murray at the very start of the year in Doha.

In recent times he has split up with his coaching team and has now joined forces with Andre Agassi. It is a huge fortnight for Djokovic as he will do everything he can to regain some of that blistering tennis we are so used to seeing.

Other players to look out for in the next fortnight are Sascha Zverev (who turned 20 last month) and 23-year-old Dominic Thiem.

Both men have had really good starts to this year's campaign. Zverev won his first Masters 1000 event by beating Djokovic in the final in Rome last week, while Thiem made the final of both Barcelona and Madrid losing to Nadal on both occasions. The latter also knocked out Nadal in last weeks Rome Masters. It’s clear that this year's tournament will be one of the competitive for the top players, as the new guys are really starting to come into their own.

The 18-time Grand Slam champion and World No.5 Roger Federer will be absent for this years tournament. The 35-year-old confirmed last week that he would not be taking part in Paris. Clay-court matches can be extremely enduring with points usually lasting a lot longer than on other surfaces. At his age it is probably the right thing to do with Wimbledon only around the corner.

Federer has only won once at Roland Garros compared to seven times at Wimbledon. The Swiss star has had an incredible year winning the Australian Open followed by Masters 1000 events in Miami and Indian Wells.

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