No guarantees for Rafa in Paris

Admittedly, it hasn't been the usual rainbows-and-cupcakes-filled spring for Rafael Nadal on clay.

He lost a couple of quarterfinal matches we're not used to seeing him lose. He fell to Novak Djokovic in the Rome final. But ... and this is a big but ... the 27-year-old Spaniard has produced a surreal 59-1 record at Roland Garros. Nadal has won eight titles in nine years there -- more than any other player at any Grand Slam.

Here's the up-and-down accounting of where the notable men stand heading into the French Open, which begins Sunday:


No. 1 Rafael Nadal: Sure, by his standards, Rafa had a miserable April, failing to win a title for the first time in a decade. In May, he won in Madrid, but it felt like a hollow victory because Kei Nishikori retired during the final. Nadal struggled mightily in his early matches in Rome against Gilles Simon, Mikhail Youzhny and Andy Murray -- the three longest matches of the tournament when they were played. In the final, he was handled by a frighteningly forceful Djokovic.


No. 2 Novak Djokovic: Coming out of Miami and his thorough thrashing of Rafa in the final, Djokovic looked poised to challenge the King of Clay in Paris. And then his wrist went dodgy. Djokovic skipped Madrid but resurfaced in Rome, where he won his first match against Radek Stepanek rather easily, then faced down Philipp Kohlschreiber and David Ferrer. Milos Raonic was a tough out, falling in a grueling, three-hour semifinal match, and then Djokovic made himself at least the co-favorite for the French Open.


No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka: After winning his first Masters shield in Monte Carlo, Stan has been something less than "the man." He lost his first match in Madrid to Austrian teenager Dominic Thiem, then his second in Rome to ageless (actually, he's 36) Tommy Haas. The Australian Open champion needs to rediscover that Melbourne mojo swiftly if he's going to go deep in Paris.


No. 4 Roger Federer: The Swiss champion hurried home a few weeks ago, passing on Madrid to be with wife, Mirka, when she delivered a second set of twins, boys Leo and Lenny. He rushed back to Rome but, understandably, lacked some focus (43 unforced errors) in his first match back against Jeremy Chardy, losing in a third-set tiebreaker. Federer nevertheless says he is of sound mind and body heading into Paris.


No. 5 David Ferrer: He may be getting older -- 32 is ancient by elite tennis standards -- but the Spaniard is still going far in the important tournaments. He fell to Kei Nishikori in the Madrid semifinals and lost in three sets to Djokovic in the quarterfinals at Rome.


No. 8 Andy Murray: The Scotsman hasn't been quite right after undergoing back surgery last year. In Madrid, he beat pesky Nicolas Almagro but lost his second match in Madrid to Santiago Giraldo. Murray advanced to the quarters in Rome and even won the first set (6-1) against Rafa but went down in three sets.


No. 9 Kei Nishikori: The good news? He's the first Japanese man to crack the top 10. The bad? He's been maddeningly fragile, pulling out of matches in Miami and, most recently, Madrid. He dominated Nadal in the first set of the Madrid final, but a balky back was his undoing in the third. Naturally, he pulled out of Rome.


No. 11 John Isner: The 6-foot-10 former Georgia Bulldog, who fell out of the top 10, lost his first match to Jurgen Melzer in Rome. Earlier in Madrid, he won his first two matches but fell to Ferrer in the round of 16. Isner enters the French Open with a 2-3 record for the clay-court season.