French Open 2018: Stats and Form for the Roland Garros men's singles

Rafael Nadal is chasing an 11th victory in Paris
Rafa Nadal remains the man to beat at Roland Garros
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Stats man Andy Swales previews the French Open where Rafa Nadal is once again the big favourite to win the men's singles ...

"If you include April’s Davis Cup tie in Valencia, Nadal’s win-loss record on clay this year is a typically impressive 19-1, or put another way 40-4 in sets."

In June 2005, and just two days beyond his 19th birthday, the young Rafael Nadal claimed the first Grand Slam title of his career.

Even then, many in the game were predicting a big future for the powerful Mallorcan, although few could have imagined the huge impact he would have on tennis.

He quickly surpassed Bjorn Borg as the greatest clay courter of all-time and, 13 years on from his maiden success at Roland Garros, Nadal will arrive in the French capital chasing an 11th Grand Slam title on clay.

In addition to his 10 wins in this event, he has triumphed 11 times at Monte Carlo and on eight occasions in Rome.

And thanks to another superb clay court season during springtime in Europe, he will open his title defence in a more dominant position than at any time during the past decade.

This is largely due to injuries suffered by many of his greatest rivals during recent years. Roger Federer - who has been beaten by Nadal in four Roland Garros finals - is wisely resting up ahead of Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have been hampered by injury concerns and possibly motivational issues over the past year, while Andy Murray hasn't played at all since Wimbledon 2017 and is not yet fit enough to compete.

Remarkable Form

If you include April's Davis Cup tie in Valencia, Nadal's win-loss record on clay this year is a typically impressive 19-1, or put another way 40-4 in sets.

On the face of it Nadal, who turns 32 during the second week of the tournament, will be a massive favourite once again.

The biggest threat to his crown is probably his own body - he's missed a number of Slams down the years because of injury. In 2016, he had to withdraw after cruising through his opening two matches in Paris.

So who are Nadal's biggest rivals in 2018 ?

Marin Cilic: It's hard to see the Croatian winning on clay, although the 29-year-old has reached two of the last three Slam finals, and is currently enjoying the most consistent form of his life. Has only once reached the last eight in Paris but at least this was last year.

Novak Djokovic: While the Serbian is generally struggling for form right now, he did give Rafa a run for his money in Rome last week where he reached the semi-finals. Although beaten in straight sets, he took the Spaniard to an opening tie-break - few do that on clay! Maybe the 12-time Slam winner finds it easier to get motivated against an old rival, than when facing the younger generation of players who he probably expects to beat with comparative ease.

Juan Martin del Potro: It's great to see the big Argentinian back in the world's top 10 but, at the time of writing, the 29-year-old's participation appears to be in doubt due to a groin injury. With the American hardcourt season starting in July, it may be wise for Del Potro not to risk aggravating this injury, so he can be fit and prepared for his favourite surface.

Dominic Thiem: Has faced Nadal nine times - all on clay - and has prevailed in three of them. That's a pretty good return against the best clay courter in history. The most recent of these came in Madrid earlier this month when the 24-year-old Austrian triumphed in straight sets, before losing to Alexander Zverev in the final. Has been a semi-finalist in Paris for each of the past two years but could he de-throne a fit Nadal over five sets on Philippe Chatrier Court?

Alexander Zverev: Arguably the greatest threat to Nadal this year but is yet to beat the 16-time Grand Slam winner in five attempts. The 21-year-old German did manage to take him to three sets in Rome last week and actually led 3-1 in the decider, before Nadal reeled off five straight games. This result ended Zverev's 13-match winning streak. Still, he has won three Masters 1000 titles - two of these on clay. He lost to the dangerous and experienced Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the first round last year.

Check the leading players' Roland Garros and Grand Slam form below by clicking on the form data...

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Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive

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