After losing in the third round of the Barcelona Open to Fabio Fognini, even Rafael Nadal’s most ardent supporters are beginning to question whether he will win his 10th French Open title this spring.
The result comes a week after the Spaniard was defeated by Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters. The defeat was a major setback, with the Serbian world number one set to pose the greatest threat to Nadal at Roland Garros.
This time last year, many were also predicting the demise of the world’s greatest ever clay court player. Just as is the case now, Nadal was in poor form and struggling for fitness. He had been knocked out in the quarter-finals of both the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open and although he went on to win the Madrid Open when Kei Nishikori retired in the final, he was defeated by Djokovic at the Italian Open.
Despite this mixed set of results, Nadal avenged this defeat to overcome Djokovic in four sets in the French Open final last year. Robin Soderling remains the only player to have beaten the Spaniard at the French Open and Nadal’s ability to perform at the highest level when it really matters gives fans reason to be optimistic the 29-year-old can maintain that record this year.