Madrid Open 2013: What We Learned on Road to French Open

John RozumCorrespondent IMay 12, 2013

Nadal remains the man to win the French Open.
Nadal remains the man to win the French Open.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The 2013 Madrid Open unveiled a glimpse of what we can expect at the French Open.

At the same time, the clay surface of Madrid taught us to never underestimate lesser-known players.

Some of the top-ranked players found that out, as their early departures helped paved an easier path for the victors.

With Italy up next and the Roland Garros on the horizon, let's check out what Madrid revealed this season.


Nadal Getting Back to His Usual Clay Form

Although Rafael Nadal had finished runner-up on clay twice this season before Madrid, he wasn't playing with his usual tenacity.

In early February, he fell to Horacio Zeballos in Chile and then to Novak Djokovic in Monaco. That said, reaching the finals in every tournament since his season began has served as a stepping stone thus far.

It ultimately led to crushing the competition in Madrid, because Nadal only dropped one set in five matches. Despite not facing Roger Federer, Andy Murray or Djokovic, Nadal also was not among the top contenders that unexpectedly fell to lower or unseeded players.

Using the clay surface of Italy to gain further preparation for France, Nadal will be expected to take Roland Garros. After all, he has won it seven of the previous eight years.


Top Players Must Quickly Rebound

The most disappointing aspect of the 2013 Madrid Open was the early exits of Federer, Djokovic and Murray. In short, the lesser-established players pulling the upsets prevented some previews of huge matchups leading into Italy and France.

At the same time, the upsets also gave us a transparent glimpse at those top-ranked players.

How will each respond at the Italian Open? Will they crumble early once again or make a deep run? And should they make it to the quarterfinals or further, can anyone fend off Nadal?

The frustrating performances of Federer, Djokovic and Murray in Madrid will force them to immediately answer back this week. How quickly each manages to get back on track will have a great effect on their showing at the 2013 French Open .

Serena Williams Building Momentum

Serena Williams hasn't won the French Open since 2002. She has not moved past the quarterfinals since 2003. Even worse, Williams was a Round 1 exit during last year's Roland Garros.

Fortunately for her sake, Williams has recently gained some impressive confidence.

After only reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, she followed that up with a finals appearance in Qatar, as well as victories in Miami and Charleston before Madrid. Even better, Williams only dropped one set in six matches en route to winning on the clay.

Plus, she dominated Maria Sharapova in the finals, 6-1, 6-4.

Entering 2013 with two straight Grand Slam wins in Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, Williams reaching the quarterfinals in Australia simply helps her momentum for France. As a result, expect a much better performance at Roland Garros this year compared to recent seasons.