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Nadal heads French Open betting after best ever start to a season

Before the start of the current season doubts had been circling about just how good Rafael Nadal could be when and if he returned to competition. Having missed much of the second half of 2012 with tendinitis in his knee the Spaniard withdrew from the Australian Open with a stomach virus. Despite being turned over on clay on his comeback in Chile’s VTR Open Nadal, could still a good bet for the Masters, even at 8/11.

Since that shock loss to Argentinian World Number 73 Horacio Zeballos handed Nadal his 20th career defeat on clay, the former World Number 1 has posted 9 more successes on the red stuff to take his career win tally on the surface to 266.

The last of those successes was a 6-2, 6-0 victory over World Number 4 David Ferrer in Acapulco, which Nadal described as “one of my best matches probably ever on clay”. High words indeed from one of the modern game’s clay court masters.

His most recent tournament came on hard court at Indian Wells, where he stepped up again on what he’d already achieved this season, beating three World Top 10 ranked opponents – Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Porto – to take the title.

To put this achievement into context, Nadal last won a hard court event in October 2010. Del Potro, the man he defeated in the final had eliminated Novak Djokovic in the semi-final.

The seven-time French Open winner will skip the upcoming Miami Masters as he continues to feel his way back towards full fitness, but the picture is looking rosy.

His potential to succumb to injuries may put some off backing him now but if Nadal continues at a rate which has seen him post his best ever start to a season then his opponents will be lucky to be on court long enough to get their trainers dirty at Roland Garros where to this day he has only lost one match, a fourth round clash with Robert Soderling in back in 2009.