Fourth seed and nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal looks to keep his hopes of a record breaking tenth title alive with a second round meeting against Argentine Facundo Bagnis. Nadal and Bagnis have never met before.
How they got here
Nadal received a quite comfortable first round against Aussie Sam Groth. While Groth's big serve could have threatened the Spaniard, the Aussie's lack of experience on clay was evident, having not played a match on the dirt in a year, the fourth seed won easily 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. For Bagnis, he also won in straight sets, defeating French qualifier Kenny De Schepper 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 to reach a meeting with the nine-time champion.
Nadal's resurgent clay court season
After struggling to find results and confidence in 2015 and early on in 2016, Nadal seemed to find his footing again on the red clay of Europe. The Spaniard claimed his ninth Monte Carlo title, playing with improved power, speed, and aggression. The world number five kept up his spring time resurgence at his home tournament of Barcelona, also claiming a ninth title there at the Catalonian capital without the loss of a set en route to the trophy.
In Madrid with conditions extremely different from the ones here in Paris, Nadal struggled at times with the speed and low bounce of the court, with the 14-time Grand Slam champion falling in the semifinals to Andy Murray. Most recently, Nadal made the quarterfinals in Rome, coming up just short to world number one Novak Djokovic in an extremely close straight sets match on the Roman clay.
Nadal's past French Open results
With Nadal having owned the trophy at Roland Garros over the past ten years, the King of Clay has only lost twice in 12 years. The Spaniard claimed his first Coupe des Mousquetaires in 2005, defeating another Argentine in the final, Mariano Puerta, in four sets. From 2006 to 2008, Nadal kept his grasp on the trophy, all three years defeating fellow great Roger Federer in the final. In 2009, the Spaniard lost in a stunning fourth-rounder to big-hitting Swede Robin Soderling, his first-ever loss at Roland Garros.
After his shock defeat to Soderling, Nadal came back with a vengeance the next year, avenging his loss to Soderling in the final for a fifth title on the Parisian clay. The former world number one kept up his lock on the trophy, winning again the following four years to lift his title count to nine, the most ever French Open titles. Last year Nadal suffered only his second ever loss in the French capital to world number one Novak Djokovic.
With Nadal showing vintage clay court form and looking back to the dominant force he was, the Spaniard is a heavy favorite in this match. With Bagnis having very little Grand Slam experience and only having played the main draw here one other time, the world number 99 is in for a steep battle. Expect Nadal to take advantage of Bagnis' inexperience and for his legendary clay court form to shine through on his way to the third round.
Prediction: Nadal in straight sets