The French Open is the second Grand Slam of the tennis season and it will start this Sunday, May 27th, from Roland Garros.
Yes, this year the tournament will start unusually on a Sunday instead of the regular Monday and will stretch over 15 days instead of 14 days like the other three Grand Slam tournaments. So make sure you start watching this Sunday.
Both the men and women singles draw are filled with storylines that should give you more than enough reasons to watch this year's tournament.
Also the total purse for the tournament is a whooping $24.6 million, with the winners of both the men's and women's singles each receiving a fat $1.64 million paycheck. Even the not-so-lucky first-round losers don't walk away empty-handed as they each receive a consolation check of $23,670.
With all this said, let's see the odds (according to Bovada.LV) and predictions for the odds-on favorites to win the singles tournaments this year.
All three players have same odds. But of the three, I would have to discard Kvitova first.
Kvitova has been bothered by an abdominal injury lately, and clay is not her best surface. If she makes the fourth round, it will be more than I would expect.
Stosur was a finalist in 2010 and a semifinalist in 2009. But her clay-court season has been average at best. She should make the quarterfinals.
Li Na is the defending champion and is peaking at the right time for the French Open. She comes from losing the final of the Italian Open and should be able to at least make the semifinals this year.
Sharapova has been playing extremely well as of late, reaching the final in four out of her last five tournaments.
She just won the Italian Open and has reached the world's No. 2 ranking behind Victoria Azarenka and boasts a lot of confidence going to the tournament.
Sharapova has never won the French Open, reaching the semifinals twice (2007, 2011), and winning it would complete the career Grand Slam.
She won't be at a loss of motivation here and should make the final this year. If her opponent is not Serena Williams, she should win it.
The world's No. 1 player had a great ride until she recently had to withdraw on the second round at the Italian Open against Dominika Cibulkova.
She demolished her first-round opponent before the WD in the next round, so whether Vika really has an injured shoulder or not, she is one player expected to go far in the tournament.
So far her best showing here has been the quarterfinals (2007, 2011), and I expect her to do one better and lose in the semifinal this year.
Arguably still the best player on the women's tour.
When she is on, she won't be stopped. Apparently only the injuries get the best of her lately as that seemed to be the case as she withdrew from the Italian Open with a lower back injury shortly before her scheduled semifinal against Li Na.
Before that she had run a 17-match winning streak and looked like she was on her way to another possible title at the Italian Open.
This year if she is healthy, she should be able to win the French Open—the only Grand Slam she has won only once, which was in 2002.
Take it to the bank that she will be ready and primed for her second career French Open title.
Juan Martin Del Potro
Surprisingly Juan Martin Del Potro is the fourth-favored player in the betting odds.
He won the Estoril Open but he faced no top-10 players there. I expect him to make it to the round of 16.
As for the other four (Murray, Tsonga, Ferrer and Berdych), expect all to reach the quarterfinals. Then Murray will be eliminated if he faces Ferrer or Berdych, and then the winner will lose in the semifinals.
Federer had won four of five tournaments and climbed to No. 2 in the world before losing to Djokovic in Rome and descending to No. 3.
Apparently he has started to feel the rigors of playing continuously since January and said that he will be taking this week off before the French Open.
At 30 years of age his body is not the same it once was, and the recovery from that effort is collecting its aches and pains on Federer's body.
He might be rested a bit for the French Open, but I think he will not have enough to beat either Djokovic or Nadal.
He is still good enough for another Grand Slam semifinal, but he just doesn't have what it would take for beating Djokovic or Nadal on that stage of the tournament.
Novak Djokovic is still the world's No. 1 but he has not been the dominant force he was last year.
With a record of 30-5 it's very different from the 41-0 start he had last year before losing to Roger Federer in the semifinals here.
Also worth noting is that last year he was 6-0 against Rafael Nadal, but after beating him this year at the epic final in the Australian Open, he has been outplayed twice (Monte Carlo, Rome) by Nadal. Both finals have been on clay where Nadal is king.
Djokovic is going for the Novak Slam, winning all four Grand Slams in a row (although not in the same year), which would also give him a career Grand Slam.
But Nadal is back to being the king of clay and unless Djokovic can find a way to being the 2011 Djokovic, Nadal will become the new French Open singles titles record-holder.
Rafael Nadal is undoubtedly the king of clay and is just one more French Open title away from surpassing Bjorn Borg for the most French titles in the Open era with seven.
He has won three of four tournaments and is 16-1 this year on clay (only loss to Fernando Verdasco in Madrid) and peaking at the right time.
Nadal is back to being the world's No. 2 player and more importantly has defeated Novak Djokovic twice in clay finals recently, looking dominant as well.
That is good news for him as he tries to get the singles record and attempt to deny Djokovic from getting his career Grand Slam.
It should be the final everyone wants to see: another epic final this year between Nadal and Djokovic, the singles record vs. the Novak Slam. But only one can win, and the way Nadal is playing this year he should win the French Open.