Tennis: Nadal not up to usual standards heading to Paris
Published: May 22, 2014 10:27AM
Updated: May 22, 2014 11:13PM
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Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Novak Djokovic extended his recent dominance over Rafael Nadal by rallying for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory Sunday to win the Italian Open for the third time. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Paris • For once, not everything seems so obvious heading into the French Open.

Yes, Rafael Nadal will still be favored by most to win the clay-court Grand Slam tournament yet again. He is, after all, 59-1 for his career at Roland Garros, winner of a record eight championships, including the last four.

Still, if the 2014 tennis season to date is any indication, there could be some surprises in store when play begins in Paris on Sunday. So far, there already was one new major champion, Stanislas Wawrinka at the Australian Open. And there has been a rather egalitarian feel to the spring clay circuit, with nine winners at nine tournaments.

Then there’s this: Nadal’s three losses on clay are the most he’s had in a season since 2004.