History says Nadal could be in trouble this season

As we hurtle toward the French Open, let's take a look at the performance of the seeds of years past. How often has the top seed won Roland Garros in the Open era? Perhaps more pertinent this year, how many times has the No. 7 seed ended up clutching the coveted Coupe des Mousquetaires?

Although the draw has yet to be made, the French Federation officials have already told us that they will not promote defending champ Rafael Nadal up from his No. 7 spot. The seedings will be the same as the rankings, so Nadal could end up playing top-ranked Novak Djokovic as early as the quarterfinals. Talk about buzzkill.

Anyway, down to business. I won't list all the names and dates, just the ones that merit special mention:

Only three unseeded players have ever won the singles title at Roland Garros: Mats Wilander (1982), Gustavo Kuerten (1997) and Gaston Gaudio (2004).

Albert Costa was the lowest seed to win (at No. 20 in 2003), followed by No. 15 Michael Chang (1989), then Andre Agassi (1999) at No. 13. The lone No. 12 to win was Carlos Moya. No. 11 has been an unlucky number; nobody from that position every won. And the only one No. 10 who ever won was Sergi Bruguera in 1993. Jim Courier won as a No. 9 in 1991, his first of back-to-back titles. That's the sum total of players who have won while seeded outside the top eight.

Only one No. 8 seed ever won, Adriano Panatta. And if Nadal manages to defend, he will join Jan Kodes of the Czech Republic as the only No. 7 ever to claim the title.

Four No. 6's won, but only two men seeded No. 5 had the honor. It's surprising, but the No. 3 seed won only four times, while No. 2 won nine times. The top-seeded player triumphed on 13 occasions.

Most interesting detail: In the decade between 1992 and 2002, only two of the 10 champions were top-five players.

So if you go strictly by these percentages, top-seeded Djokovic has a 28.2 percent chance of winning, Federer has a 19.5 percent chance and Rafa is clinging to a 4.3 percent chance. Still, it sure beats being No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov, right?