Novak, Nadal and Roland’s red clay

The French Open tennis championships start on Monday, and it should be a cracker.

Gone are the days when Rafa Nadal would almost be presented with the trophy before the competition began. And that is thanks to the rampant form of Novak Djokovic who, if you include his two Davis Cup wins, currently holds a record of 39 straight wins.

The overall record of 46 consecutive wins is now in his sights – but he’ll have to win in Paris to reach that target.

Standing in his way will be Nadal, a man who until only 4 months ago was expected to continue his form of 2010 and a dominance of the sport which stretches back to the beginning of the last year’s clay court season.

But, crazy as it may seem for a player who still holds three of the four Grand Slam titles available, and has been beaten only once at Roland Garros in his entire career, Nadal faces a huge test if he is to be crowned French Open champion for the sixth time.

Nadal himself has been in fine form during 2011. He’s secured his usual titles at Monte Carlo and Barcelona and reached the final of all five Masters 1000 events to have taken place on the ATP Tour so far this year.

The problem though, is that he’s lost four of them, all to Novak Djokovic. Monte Carlo was Nadal’s only success of the five, and even that could be attributed to the fact that Djokovic wasn’t present.

Rafa’s defeats in Miami and Indian Wells were both on surfaces which Djokovic favours, but the Serb has so far proved equally unbeaten on Nadal’s favourite surface.

If the two meet in the Paris final in just over two weeks, then Djokovic will take over the number one ranking, regardless of the outcome.

It all sets up a fascinating couple of weeks of tennis and I for one cannot wait.

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