Nadal aims to return to form in time for Paris

Rafael Nadal is seeking a 10th French Open crown but he faces a huge battle to claim this year's title.

Rafael Nadal will arrive in Paris for the second Grand Slam of the season, aiming for a 10th French Open title.

However, his traditional dominance on clay has suffered a knock in recent weeks and he is competing at the tournament having failed to win any of the warm-up events on European soil.

He did win the Argentina Open on clay earlier in the year, but in the last four tournaments, all on his favourite surface, he has fallen short.

He lost to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters, suffered a third round exit in Barcelona, lost to Andy Murray in the final of the Madrid Masters and, most recently, in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters, where he was beaten in straight sets by Stan Wawrinka.

It would be foolish to write Nadal off given his astonishing record in Paris, but he will have to improve markedly on recent form if he is to achieve yet another French Open title.

In contrast to Nadal's recent struggles, world number one Djokovic is in excellent form. He entered 2105 as the world number one in the ATP rankings and his performances so far this year underlines his current dominance in the men's game.

He won the Australian Open in January and, since a defeat by Roger Federer in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships, has won the last four tournaments he has entered, two of which were on clay; the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Tomas Berdych in the final and then in Rome, beating Federer in straight sets.

He now has 22 victories in a row going into the French Open and, having been runner-up to Nadal in 2012 and last year, may never have a better chance of winning the only Grand Slam to have eluded him so far.

Andy Murray is another looking at the recent form of Nadal and hoping for more success on clay. It has never previously been regarded as Murray's best surface, but he has had an impressive run of form in recent weeks. He won an event in Munich, beating Philippe Kohlschreiber in the final and then won the Madrid Masters, beating Nadal 6-3 6-2 in the final.

Those were his first ever clay court titles and, having withdrawn from the Italian Open before a third round match, ensures he goes to Paris on the back of a 10-match winning record on the surface. He is another who may be feeling he'll never have a better chance of winning in Paris.

Roger Federer is a former winner of the French Open, getting his hands on the trophy in 2009 and a four-time runner-up to Nadal. He has a clay court tournament win under his belt already in 2015, albeit an ATP 250 event in Istanbul. However, he did reach the final in Rome recently, beating Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka before losing to Djokovic.

Others looking to have a good French Open include Berdych and Kei Nishikori. Both have one Grand Slam final appearance to their name; Berdych at Wimbledon in 2010, Nishikori in New York last year and both have had reasonable runs on clay so far this season.

Berdych was a semi-finalist at the Madrid Open and then reached the last eight in Rome. Nishikori had an identical record and both will hope to still be in contention when the French Open reaches its climax.

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