Madrid Open 2013: Most Impressive Performances on Road to French Open

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 10:  Rafael Nadal of Spain slides to play a backhand to David Ferrer of Spain on day seven of the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament at the Caja Magica  on May 10, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

While the Madrid Open does not have the notoriety of the Grand Slams, it is always one of the top tournaments of the year for fans to watch.

As the final major event before the French Open, all the stars come out to get a final tune-up on clay to prepare for Roland Garros. This makes the field as strong as possible, and the result is some exciting matches right from the start.

This year's tournament featured plenty of surprises, as none of the top four seeds on the men's side reached the semifinals. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic did not even reach the quarterfinals of this event.

While these represented some of the more disappointing performances, there were plenty of impressive showings of competitors who made this a worthwhile event. Here are some players who really made this week count with good runs at the Mutua Madrid Open.


Stanislas Wawrinka

There were few easy matches in Stanislas Wawrinka's run to the final, but his ability to keep winning was quite impressive.

After beating his first two opponents in straight sets, the Swiss player needed a third set to win the next three matches. The final two were against quality competition in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych. 

Wawrinka has always been strong on clay, as three of his four career titles have come on this surface. His career record on clay is also much better than it is on hard surfaces or on grass.

With the momentum that he has from this tournament and the last one—he took first place at Oeiras—he could be a sleeper to make a deep run at the French Open.


Grigor Dimitrov

Although Grigor Dimitrov only won a single match in Madrid, it was arguably the most impressive victory of the tournament.

The 21-year-old player upset top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the second round in an incredible exciting match. The competitors split the first two sets after both went to a tiebreak, and then Dimitrov earned the win, thanks in part to great support from the crowd.

While he is still yet to win a title in his young career, this was by far Dimitrov's biggest win to date, and it is certain to give him confidence against any opponent in the future.

Dimitrov proved that he is one of the best up-and-coming players in the world, and he is ready to outgrow the "Baby Fed" nickname bestowed upon him.


Serena Williams

In true Serena Williams fashion, she got more dominant against the best competition at the Madrid Open.

The No. 1 player in the world had some close calls early, including against Anabel Medina Garrigues in the quarterfinals. After winning the first set, the American lost 0-6 in the second before finally coming through with a 7-5 victory in the third set.

Williams then dominated Sara Errani in the semifinal and Maria Sharapova in the final to capture the 50th title of her career. She also now has a 13-2 record against Sharapova in her career in what has been a one-sided rivalry.

Although the No. 1 ranking was up for grabs in this final, Williams proved that she is the top player in her sport, and she should be the overwhelming favorite entering the French Open.


Rafael Nadal

Few players have been as dominant at any event as Rafael Nadal has been at Roland Garros in the past decade. The Spanish star has won seven times in eight years while earning the nickname "King of Clay."

For the first time, however, there are some doubts as to whether or not Nadal has what it takes to win again.

After missing months of competition due to a knee injury, he has seen mixed results so far in 2013. While he has won four titles already, Nadal suffered a bad loss to Horacio Zeballos in February and then dropped a match to Djokovic at Monte Carlo, where he rarely loses.

These concerns were squashed this week, as Nadal once again proved that he should always be favored on a clay court. He was fortunate to avoid the top players in the world, but he beat the ones he faced with relative ease throughout the tournament.

While he might not be the top seed due to all of his missed time, Nadal should once again be favored at the French Open at the end of May.