The best players in the world might be battling it out at the moment in Madrid, but the reality is that all eyes are firmly fixed on the 2013 French Open later this month.
No player will want to end their Grand Slam campaign before it ever really began, so it's crucial that they find good form in these pre-tournament events. Which, for many players, was exactly what happened at the Madrid Open this year as they boosted their stock for the upcoming Grand Slam.
Which stars were the big winners from the 2013 Madrid Open and are primed for strong French Open campaigns? Read on and find out.
David Ferrer, World No. 4
Spaniard David Ferrer is a clay-court specialist, and so it comes as no surprise to see him chalk up a strong performance this week. But given the season that he's had so far, contrasted with the tennis that he played in Madrid, his stock definitely rose ahead of the upcoming French Open.
Ferrer was easily beaten by Stanislas Wawrinka in the Portugal Open earlier in the year in what was one of his worst clay-court performances in recent years.
As the World No. 4, he therefore came into this tournament with a lot of pressure, and whilst he only made it to the quarterfinals, he was very strong in getting that far and showed great skill in pushing the highly favored Rafael Nadal all the way in their quarterfinal matchup.
Ferrer took the first set and had a chance to win the match when the second set went to a tiebreak. He was unable to break through, however, and lost the match in the third set, but he won't at all have been embarrassed by his performance.
He showed himself to be the legitimate clay-court threat that everyone assumed he was, and will definitely be in the running at Roland Garros as a result.
Tomas Berdych, World No. 6
Clay isn't the strongest surface to play on for big-serving Tomas Berdych, but the Czech Republic star definitely showed he's not to be discounted at Roland Garros later this year with a strong showing in Madrid—eliminated at the hands of the in-form Wawrinka in the semifinals.
Berdych didn't have an easy match all tournament—playing against different styles of players—and yet he was able to keep his nerve and pull through.
His win over Kevin Anderson showed that he has the returning game to survive against a big-serving player, and his victory over Andy Murray proved even further that he can challenge the best. Even to take a set off Wawrinka was a good achievement given the form that the Swiss star's been in, and it'll no doubt hold Berdych in good stead for the French Open later this year.
He definitely needs to spend more time out on the court before Roland Garros, but all the signs are there for Berdych to have a surprisingly strong campaign indeed.
Stanislas Wawrinka, World No. 15
However, there has been no bigger winner this week (and really this past month) than Wawrinka, who has been in simply superb form over the past few tournaments, and thoroughly deserves his chance to take on Nadal in the final at the Madrid Open.
At the time of publication, it is not yet known how the Swiss star performed against Nadal in the final, but either way, his stock is definitely on the way up.
His wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Berdych show that he's capable of beating the best in the world, and having already defeated the likes of Andy Murray and David Ferrer on clay this year, Wawrinka definitely has claims to being a genuine contender at the French Open.
If he can defeat Nadal in the final, that fact would be reinforced even further.
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