Rafael Nadal is on course for his eighth French Open Grand Slam title after it appeared that his title defense was in real jeopardy at one stage.
The Spaniard had missed almost eight months of tennis heading into the VTR Open in Chile last week, with both knee injuries and viruses keeping him away from the game.
He had missed the 2012 London Olympics and the U.S. Open and withdrew from the Australian Open Grand Slam as well, leaving many wondering whether the clay-court specialist would be alright for the remainder of the season.
And despite a somewhat rusty start to the tournament, Nadal is seemingly back and is once again the favorite to succeed at the 2013 French Open.
Nadal has moved through to the finals of the VTN Open in both the singles and the doubles last week and will look to cap off a strong tournament when he takes on World No. 73 Horacio Zeballos—a match that he should cruise through with ease.
Yet the bigger thing for the Spanish international in his return hasn't been getting results and wins, but simply gaining confidence in his game. Of course, winning is nice, but as Nadal pointed out himself, what was happening in the overall picture was most important:
Every day improves and increases the confidence for me. Every day that the knee answers well is a lot of positive energy for me, and that's helping me a lot. The feeling day by day is better—the feeling on court.
I am very happy [with] what I am doing this whole week, so I cannot ask for any more. The reality is that I'm in a final, which for me is very nice, very important after so much time without competing.
Should Rafa return to complete health and fitness by the time the French Open rolls around, you'd have to think he'd be the clear favorite for the title once more.
He has won seven of the past eight Grand Slams held at Roland Garros and has the best clay-court record in history—making him one of the toughest opponents ever to play on a particular surface. So even if his playing history isn't as strong and he isn't at 100 percent, he still has a real chance at victory.
Not that not playing enough will be the issue for Nadal here.
According to BBC Sport, the former World No. 1 will play in Brazil and Mexico as well as Indian Wells and Miami all in the near future to get further in shape. He will then head to the clay courts of Europe for events in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, and from there, he will travel to Roland Garros for the 2013 French Open Grand Slam.
Given the strong run of form that he's showing at the moment, he'll certainly be the danger man again throughout the French Open.
Roger Federer may well be the gentleman of the game who will go down as arguably the greatest ever, but when it comes to the French Open, only one player matters.
His name is Rafael Nadal, and when he's on his game, there is essentially nothing anybody can do to stop him from chalking up another Grand Slam title.
Expect the same to continue here in 2013.
Do you think Rafael Nadal will win the 2013 French Open?
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