A Nadal-Federer showdown is possible, but give title No. 5 to Rafa

Martin Rogers
May 22, 2009

If Roger Federer is looking for good omens ahead of his latest attempt to win the French Open, then he might like a take a look at the history books.

Exactly 10 years ago a certain Andre Agassi strolled onto the red clay of Roland Garros as an underdog seemingly on the decline. Two weeks later he left Paris having completed his career Grand Slam, which is exactly what Federer is chasing once again.

Agassi was playing the French for the 11th time, just like Federer is this year, but alternative evidence doesn't bode particularly well for the Swiss superstar. Even though Federer beat Rafael Nadal on a fast hard court in Madrid last week, the Spaniard is still perhaps the greatest clay-court player in history.

The slower dirt of Roland Garros suits Nadal perfectly, and he has never lost there while racking up four straight French Open titles. Furthermore, Federer has got the tougher draw, being placed in the same half as Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic has resurrected what threatened to turn into a disappointing year ever since the tour moved onto clay, making four finals from his last five events and narrowly losing to Nadal in the Madrid semis.

While Djokovic may indeed be the most legitimate threat to Nadal, the Nadal-Federer rivalry is the one tennis fans most want to see revisited. The last time they met on the big stage was in the Australian Open final earlier this year, when Federer collapsed spectacularly in the fifth set before weeping on court as he was presented with his second-place trophy.

Nadal would appear to have the edge in terms of mental toughness and given his inherent advantage on clay it is hard to see any other result than a fifth straight title.

Yahoo! Sports predictions:
Semifinals: Nadal beats Gonzalez; Djokovic beats Federer
Final: Nadal beats Djokovic