The names of the top three or four male and female tennis stars are well known, but some players outside of the top 10 could easily make a splash at the French Open this year too.
No. 4 Rafael Nadal is the hot story going into the tournament, fresh off of a win against Roger Federer in Rome. The victory boosted Nadal past David Ferrer in the world rankings, according to ESPN. The Spaniard has seven career titles in the French Open and is viewed as the clear-cut male favorite on Roland Garros’ clay surface.
All of those big names might face significant roadblocks in their quest to win the French Open though. The following players are those potential barriers. Keep an eye on them once qualifiers are finished and matchups are set.
The French right-hander is one of the best sleepers in the tournament this year. Paire is playing in his home country and had several strong outings recently.
In Rome, the 24-year old defeated Juan Monaco (No. 18) and Juan Martin Del Potro (No. 7) before falling to Roger Federer. His outstanding play in Italy proved that he can beat elite talent.
Ousting Del Potro was big for Paire, but he’s been eliminated by Federer or Nadal three out of his past four tournaments on clay. The Frenchman certainly has the ability to upset players ranked higher than him (Paire is currently No. 26), but he hasn’t been able to beat a top-five player in 2013.
This French Open could be his arrival.
Carla Suarez Navarro
For the females, Navarro is a quality lower seed at No. 20. The Spaniard was very good in Rome.
She knocked off Nadia Petrova (No. 11) in her first round of play. After two more victorious matches, Navarro was bested by eventual champ Serena Williams. Not bad considering Williams’ untouchable play lately. Her success at that tournament was no aberration, either.
In Madrid, the native managed to defeat Samantha Stosur in two sets. Caroline Wozniacki lost to Navarro in similar fashion earlier this year at Stuttgart. Both players are top-10 talents, and both wins came on clay.
The 20th-ranked player could surprise some people at Roland Garros.
Gulbis’ ranking was outside of the top 100 earlier in 2013, but his great year propelled him all the way to No. 39.
Some of the Latvian’s main highlights since January include beating Tommy Haas on his way to a title, handily defeating Janko Tipsarevic, besting John Isner right after the American claimed a title and playing Rafael Nadal tight twice.
Beating Nadal in what is by far the Spaniard’s best tournament would not be an easy task. Gulbis has shown the ability to win big on clay though.
You can be certain that higher seeds don’t want to see the rising pro as an opponent right now.