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2013 French Open: And the Winner is…

Here we are…the highlight of the season on clay: The French Open!

Probably the trickiest, the hardest title to capture,  and the most wanted Grand Slam title a tennis player could ever dream of. Yes that’s right

The French Open is exciting, exhilarating but at the same time, you never know what to expect…anything can happen: how many favorites stumbled on the red clay, defeated by strangers coming out of the blue…a lot!

No later than last year, Serena Williams learned it the hard way, falling to Virginie Razzano (ranked over the 100th spot), in the first round. Her first ever loss in the first round of a Grand Slam. Everybody remembered this memorable see-saw…during which Serena was surprisingly in control in the decider but unexpectedly lost to a conquering Razzano. Razzano’s shocking upset made the headlines and forced Williams to remember the famous saying: « Never underestimate your opponent ».

The clay is feared by most players because you have to adapt your game on the surface. You must learn how to tame it, a combination of power, subtlety, and accuracy. Some players know how to play on clay naturally: this simple thing called « talent »,  others have to work hard and redefine their game on the surface.

The word « talent » goes well with Rafael Nadal for instance. The mallorcan is considered to be the best player ever on clay. Ever since he first won the French Open in 2005, Nadal only lost once. Not only is he powerful but he excels at playing on clay.

After a couple of months off the courts, Nadal returned this year stronger than ever…capturing his 22nd ATP world tour masters title in Indian Wells, won in Barcelona, Madrid, and Rome. Nadal’s only 2 losses came to Zeballos earlier in the year ( just returning from his knee injury) and most importantly to Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo: His first ever loss in this tournament after a  8-year domination.

Novak Djokovic who can really be a trouble maker for Nadal at this year’s French Open, not only because he is the World number one but he managed to outplay the King of clay…on clay, which doesn’t happen very often.

Roger Federer on the other hand, has stepped out of the game a little bit…we don’t really know what to expect from him, as he has not won big lately.  A few years ago, he was, with Nadal, the most overrated player. You couldn’t imagine a tournament or a grand slam without Federer nor Nadal as finalists.

Today, things have dramatically changed in the tennis World, as Novak Djokovic emerged and seems to be the commanding leader on the tour.

Novak Djokovic may be the unquestionable leader but as far as him taking out Rafael Nadal at the French Open…we’ll have to see it!

There is still a lot of outsiders: David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and the string of made-for-clay type of players  (mostly coming from Spain or latin America) who usually pop up at this time of the year and upset the so-called hierarchy.

 

In the ladies’ draw, it is clearly said that no one, nobody, no player will ever stop Serena Williams from capturing her second French Open this year.

But you have to be careful with assumptions, even if the facts speak for themselves: She is currently World number one, is on a 24-match winning streak ( the longest of her career: reeling victories in Charleston, Madrid and Rome), has won the last 67 matches out of 70 matches she played after her infamous loss to Razzano at last year’s French Open ( during which she won Wimbledon, the Olympics, the US Open and the 2012  year-end Championships).

This season, her only 2 losses came to Sloane Stephens in the Australian Open quaterfinals and Victoria Azarenka in Doha Final.  So who can stop her other than herself ?

Not Maria Sharapova, who is on a stellar form on clay since she captured the title in Paris last year, but is on a pretty serious losing streak against Serena Williams for not having been able to win a single match against her for as long as 9 years!!!

Not Victoria Azarenka, one of the only 2 women who managed to beat Williams this season, however,she has  a terrible record against her: 12 losses out of 14 matches played.

Not Agniezka Radwanska, who has never won against the youngest Williams.

So we should probably think outside of the box, that is reach out for the outsiders in the game, not the obvious rivals immediately behind Williams in the rankings: we can see Jelena Jankovic as a serious contender, even if it had been said may times that she would win the French Open, she never actually managed to be in the position of winning, although she made it through the semis three times (2007,2008 and 2010).

Jankovic has the kind of game that can trouble anyone on clay,  and Williams knows it… for having lost a couple of times to her…but she is usually close…but not close enough to win. She tends to fail at crucial moments.

Who else??? We can’t see anyone. That being said, it is important to remember, that even if everybody points out a clear favorite, no one knows what the future holds…who will be the  champions ? Not even Serena Williams nor Rafael Nadal can answer. Period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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