Rafael Nadal will seek to win his eighth French Open Grand Slam when he takes on the best of the world at Roland Garros in May later this year.
The Spaniard made a successful return from injury this week after having eight months away from the game with various ailments, and whilst he did lose in the final of the VTR Open to Horacio Zeballos, the clay-court specialist still has to be considered one of the favorites at Roland Garros this year.
One look at his record at the French Open will prove that to be correct, having lost just once in his last 53 matches at the Grand Slam event.
Yet partly due to the injury and partly due to the rest of the world getting better, Rafa might not have it as easy in 2013 as he has done in years gone by.
Read on to see the biggest threats for Nadal at the 2013 French Open.
3. David Ferrer
Current world No. 4 David Ferrer was shown to be a serious step down from the top class players at the recent 2013 Australian Open, but back on his favorite surface, expect Ferrer to be a real challenger here in this tournament.
Ferrer ranked fifth last year on percentage of games won on clay courts in 2012, despite playing significantly more matches than most of the top 20 in that category. Also, considering that the Spaniard doesn't have a big serve in his pocket like the likes of Milos Raonic or John Isner do, it truly was a remarkable achievement from Ferrer.
Expect him to be a real challenger here and depending on how the draw works out, a genuine threat at toppling any of the top seeds in the latter rounds of competition.
Last year's runner-up Novak Djokovic is the clear world No. 1 and best player in the game at the moment—shown with his recent triumph at the 2013 Australian Open.
The Serbian international simply hits the ball so cleanly and defends so beautifully, it is near impossible for him to be broken down over a five-set match. He just doesn't give his opponents an easy win ever when he takes the court.
Expect more of that from Novak here as he seeks to improve on his 2012 result. Djokovic only came in 20th last year for total service games won on serve with 81 percent, but he did rank as high as seventh when it came to return games won.
His power-hitting and brilliant movement across the court will no doubt keep him in the tournament here, and he'll be a huge threat for Nadal no doubt.
Yet as good as Djokovic is (which is really, really good), there is simply no greater threat for Nadal's French Open defense than that of Roger Federer.
The Swiss maestro was beaten in straight sets by Djokovic in the semifinals of last year's tournament, but having reached the final in five of the last seven Grand Slams at Rolland Garros, he certainly knows what's required to succeed at the French Open.
The clay court is not Federer's favorite service and he has particularly had trouble against the Nadal forehand in the past on it. Having said that, his service game is very strong and his whipping forehand devastating of his own accord, and he can triumph here because of that.
Will Rafael Nadal make it eight French Open titles in 2013?
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