As Clay Season Starts, Pressure on Nadal

AP Photo

Putting forth the notion that Rafael Nadal isn't the overwhelming favorite at every tournament during the clay-court season, especially the French Open, would have been utter heresy until last year. After all, Nadal on clay was the closest embodiment of a sure thing that exists in sports. He has won six of the last seven French titles and is roundly considered the greatest player to toil on the dirt in the modern era.

But the explosive emergence, and then complete dominance, of Novak Djokovic over the last 17 months has so altered the tennis landscape that even fierce Nadal partisans have to admit that the man from Mallorca cannot be considered the French Open favorite this spring.

As the clay-court season begins this week in Monte Carlo, arguably the most...

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