Is Rafael Nadal still the favorite for the clay swing? The Spaniard, champion at the 2020 Mexico Open in Acapulco, could reach Roger Federer's record at the next edition of the Roland Garros, but this year the competition will be more difficult.
What are the reasons? Novak Djokovic has seemed unbeatable since the beginning of the year. The Serb is determined as Rafa to beat Federer's Slam record, therefore his march towards Paris will lead him to select and compete on some clay-events which he will want to win, such as in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome.
The other factor is Dominic Thiem. The Austrian has improved a lot in recent months, especially on hard courts. On clay-courts, he is now a guarantee: two consecutive finals played at the French Open and the feeling that the victory in Paris is around the corner.
And Nadal? The Spaniard is in excellent shape, as we saw in Acapulco. Yet his real season will begin on the clay-courts of the Monte Carlo Tennis Club. Nadal is preparing for the two most important months of his year and, barring particular physical problems, he will be the favorite, even if, compared to the past two seasons, there may be some surprises.
The events at which he remains substantially favored are the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, the Barcelona Open, the Mutua Madrid Open, the Italian Open and the French Open. Five tournaments during which Nadal will once again have to demonstrate his supremacy over his direct rivals, who today are Djokovic and Thiem on this surface.
Many argue that Thiem is his rival number one on clay: I say that Djokovic can beat Nadal this year also at Roland Garros if he continues his incredible march. Djokovic more than Thiem will be Nadal's toughest test during the clay-swing.