Who's Hot and Who's Not in Tennis Heading into the 2013 French Open

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2013

Who's Hot and Who's Not in Tennis Heading into the 2013 French Open

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    Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are the favorites going into the 2013 French Open.

    So dominant have these two been during the clay-court season that anything short of a French Open title would be considered failure.

    Yet both face challenges at Roland Garros. 

    Nadal has yet to play a five-setter since returning from a serious knee injury.

    Williams must beat back the demons from last year's French Open, where she lost in the first round.

    Still, the way Nadal and Williams steam-rolled over the competition puts the perennial powerhouses at the top of the list of who's hot heading into the French Open. 

Hot: Rafael Nadal

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    Rafael Nadal should sleep on clay.  

    That's just how good that surface has been for him. He has won 95 percent of his clay-court matches this season. He is above 93 percent for his career.  

    Some people find it hard to even get out of bed 93 percent of the time. 

    Nadal destroyed his long-time rival Roger Federer in the final of the Italian Open

    The win moved Nadal to No. 4 in the ATP rankings. 

Hot: Serena Williams

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     Serena Williams should take the court at Roland Garros to the sound of Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire."

    Williams is on a personal best 24-match winning streak. More importantly, she enters Roland Garros undefeated on clay this season. 

    She soundly defeated No. 2 Maria Sharapova in Madrid. She also beat No. 3 Victoria Azarenka, 6-1, 6-3 in Rome.

    Williams believes her toughest opponent might be "the lady in the mirror."

    Considering the way Williams has handled the competition, she's probably right. 

Hot: Jerzy Janowicz

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    Jerzy Janowicz will be playing in his first French Open.  

    If he can avoid first-time jitters, the 6'8" Janowicz could pull off a couple of upsets at Roland Garros.  

    He defeated Top 10 players Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, back-to-back, en route to the Italian Open quarterfinals against Roger Federer.

    Although he lost, No. 23 Janowicz proved he's an agile big guy who moves surprisingly well on clay. He is certainly one to watch. 

Hot: Jelena Jankovic

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    A former No. 1 player and three-time French Open semifinalist, Jankovic is finding her form again after falling out of the Top 20 last year.

    Currently ranked No. 18, Jankovic has moved into the Top 10 in the "Race to Istanbul."

    The Race to Istanbul determines who plays in the WTA Championships.  

    Jankovic reached the semifinals in Miami, the finals in Charleston and won a tough match against Li Na in Rome.

Hot: Benoit Paire

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    Even with a wealth of talent in the Top 50, the French continue to come up short at the French Open. 

    Benoit Paire's showing at the Italian Open may give the French some hope.  

    Paire reached the semifinals in Rome, where he lost a tough match to Federer

    His wins in Rome helped propel him up 10 spots to No. 26 in the ATP Rankings

    With the force of the French crowd behind him, Paire could build on what he started in Italy. 

Hot: Simona Halep

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    Once best known for her breast-reduction surgery, Simona Halep is letting her tennis do the talking now.

    Halep played her way through qualifiers all the way to the semifinals of the Italian Open.  

    She jumped from No. 64 to No. 44 in the WTA rankings.

    An excellent clay-court player, Halep was the 2008 juniors champion at the French Open.

Not: Roger Federer

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    Roger Federer losing to Rafael Nadal is nothing new.

    However, Federer looking completely deflated in his losses is cause for concern.

    Federer was so outplayed in Rome that Sports Illustrated writer Bruce Jenkins declared the rivalry on its last legs

    Still the second-best clay court player among active players, Federer might manage to reach the finals.

    But if he wants to win, his best hope is to have someone upset Nadal.  

Not: Caroline Wozniacki

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    Caroline Wozniacki's woes continue.

    A former No. 1 player, Wozniacki used to have to deal with critics who compared her to Dinara Safina, another former No. 1. Both racked up plenty of points but caved when it counted. 

    Wozniacki’s clay-court season has been a disaster. She lost her first matches in Rome, Madrid and Stuttgart. 

    Last year Wozniacki left Roland Garros in ugly fashion.  Bounced in the third round, she called the French Open officiating a disgrace.

    Wozniacki needs to turn things around soon or her career might be called a disgrace. 

Not: David Ferrer

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    A superb clay-court player, David Ferrer should be on cloud nine going into the French Open.  

    Instead, the 31-year-old Ferrer must ponder if his window of opportunity to win a Grand Slam is swiftly closing. 

    Standing in his way is fellow Spaniard Nadal.

    Measured against any player other than Nadal, Ferrer is having another solid clay-court season. He is 15-5 on the surface.

    Two of those loses were to Nadal, who defeated Ferrer in the quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome.  

    Nadal moved ahead of Ferrer in the ATP Rankings. 

    Now No. 5, Ferrer seems to have hit a wall. The wall’s name is Nadal. 

Not: Maria Sharapova

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    Maria Sharapova made it to the finals in the Sony Open in Miami and in Madrid.

    Both times she lost to Serena Williams. She has lost 12 straight to Williams

    Playing runner-up to Williams is not Sharapova's goal. However, that's where she finds herself. 

    Sharapova withdrew from the Italian Open, where she was defending champion. When Williams won the tournament, she increased her points lead over the Russian.

    Sharapova enters the French Open with the pressure of defending her title. She also knows Williams, who lost in the first round last year, has nothing to lose. 

    With Williams lording over Sharapova, heavy is the crown for the so-called “Queen of Clay.”

Not: Andy Murray

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    Andy Murray is worse than not hot. He's simply not. 

    According to Reuters, Murray will not participate in the French Open due to the injury he suffered in Rome.

    Even before Murray retired from the Italian Open, the Scot was having a tough go of it this clay-court season. He is 3-3 on clay.  

    Murray turns his focus to grass. His decision to skip Roland Garros probably has something to do with his quest for that elusive Wimbledon title. 

Not: Li Na

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    Li Na's clay-court season got off to a good start. The 2011 French Open champion, Li reached the finals at Stuttgart.

    But then she inexplicably lost in the first round in Madrid to Madison Keys. She followed that up with a loss to Jelena Jankovic in Rome. 

    Perhaps still hampered by an ankle injury she sustained earlier this year, Li has been inconsistent.  

    Who knows which Li will arrive at Roland Garros.