French Open: Nadal-Almagro Second Round Preview

On paper, this match is a simple one for Rafael Nadal. The 6th seed has beaten Almagro twice this year already (once in Barcelona, once in Miami) and is undoubtedly the favourite; his Roland Garros 67/1 win to loss record is unmatched by anyone in history at any tournament whereas Almagro has never managed to get past the quarter finals here.

Almagro had a tough 2014 season plagued with injury; this resulted in his ending the year ranked outside the top 50 for the first time since 2005. The 2014 French Open was the last tournament he played that year, and after retiring down 0-5 to Jack Sock in the first round he didn’t play again until Sydney this January. His results since then have been predominantly 4th round and quarterfinal appearances. However, it will be a tough match for Nadal, since Almagro is a former top 10 player but due to time away from the game he has slipped to 154 in the rankings, hence his early clash with Nadal.

Nadal’s year has also been tough – for the first time in history he has gone into the French Open without winning one of the Masters Evens on clay in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome that precede it. He has frequently lost matches against players below his ranking which, logically, he should have won, such as Fabio Fognini in Rio de Janeiro and Fernando Verdasco in Miami.

Nadal has beaten Almagro twice this year without losing a set, so theoretically this match should be in his hands. He has spoken often of the “doubts” in confidence he has been feeling this year, and evidently these have been the determining factor in most losses he has experienced this season so far. However, Nadal won his first match in straight sets with relative ease against 18 year-old Halys, firing forehand winners regularly and only committing 13 unforced errors, whereas Almagro struggled in a tighter match against Dolgopolov before coming through in four sets with 28 unforced errors. Due to Nadal's overwhelming 12-1 win/loss record against Almagro, and indeed his incredible French Open success, it’s unlikely tomorrow's match will be Almagro’s shot at the upset.

Prediction: Nadal in straight sets.