Rafael Nadal begins his hunt for a historic 10th French Open title as he takes on Frenchman Benoit Paire in the opening round at the Roland Garros Stadium in Paris on Monday.
The fourth seed heads into the tournament on the back of a stunning run on European clay this season. The 14-time Grand Slam champion, who came back from injury to storm to the Australian Open final, did not win a title on hard courts, but has been looking unstoppable on the dirt with three consecutive titles - Monte Carlo Masters, Barcelona and Madrid.
Nadal's bid for the fourth on the trot in Rome was stopped by Dominic Thiem in the quarter-final after the latter failed to stop the Spaniard in the final of Barcelona and Madrid. On the other hand, Paire has had a poor run on clay so far with early exits at Monte Carlo, Estoril and Rome. He managed to beat an out-of-form Stanislas Wawrinka in Madrid but fell in the third round against Pablo Cuevas.
Nadal though has said he will be wary of the Frenchman, who according to the Spaniard is a "great talent with a big serve and fantastic backhand." Notably, the two players have met twice on clay and on both occasions (2013 Barcelona and Madrid), the world number five has come out on top in straight sets.
Given the two players' recent form, Nadal will start as the overwhelming favourite to progress past the first round in Paris. With a possible semi-final meeting against Novak Djokovic on the cards, the Spaniard, who is eyeing to become the first man in Open era to win 10 titles at a Grand Slam, will want to get past the opening rounds without much hassle.