The start of the 2013 French Open is just days away, with plenty of drama and intrigue to be found in both the men's and women's tournaments this year.
From the reemergence of Rafael Nadal as the hot favorite for the tournament to the typical dominance of Serena Williams, there's certainly no shortage of storylines. And while the draw and then the results themselves will be the main focus at Roland Garros this year, it'd be foolish to not first address the biggest talking points.
Read on to see the hottest items to watch for in the French Open this year.
Andy Murray's Withdrawal—How Will It Impact the Field?
After battling injuries in the days leading up to the French Open, World No. 2 Andy Murray has officially withdrawn, according to BBC Sport's Twitter feed.
The move is a smart one, as it allows Murray to properly recover for his stronger grass-court seasons without pushing himself on a surface on which he isn't as comfortable. But in terms of the draw and potential seeding, the ramifications are huge and will no doubt have an impact.
Novak Djokovic remains the same as the No. 1 seed, but Murray's absence bumps Roger Federer to No. 2 and Nadal up to No. 3.
Both Djokovic and Federer will be hoping to avoid the Spaniard in their half of the draw. Surely they would much prefer to play his countryman, No. 4 seed David Ferrer, although even he won't be an easy matchup given his clay-court dominance.
It's hard to evaluate the impact of Murray's absence before the draw (Friday, 5:30 a.m. ET), but it will certainly affect the storylines that follow.
It all depends on where Nadal is drawn now.
Can Serena Williams End Her Clay-Court Frustration?
The last time Williams made a final at Roland Garros, Kelly Clarkson had just won the first ever American Idol and My Big Fat Greek Wedding hadn't even been released.
It was the year of 2002, and since then, Williams has been incredibly dominant in women's tennis and has seemingly won all there is to win—save for her horror run at the French Open. She hasn't made it past the semifinals since 2003, and after being trounced in the first round last year, things don't look great for the American here.
However, this year may be different for Williams.
She's been in tremendous form leading into Roland Garros this year and has a number of key victories under her belt, including wins over Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in clay-court finals. Williams will be hoping to carry that form into France this year and cement her status as the best women's tennis player in the world.
Or Will We Be in For More Upsets This Year?
If we're ever going to see a surprise winner of a Grand Slam, it's most likely to come from the women's field, and it's most likely to happen at Roland Garros.
The last six years have seen six different champions crowned at the French Open, and whilst all of them have been seeds, only one of them was the top seed (Justin Henin, 2007). Since then, no favorite has won the French Open and no two players have won it twice—making this year's tournament a potentially very open affair indeed.
As mentioned above, Williams will be the favorite for the title this year, but history suggests that absolutely anybody could win this Grand Slam.
What's With the Form of the Big Three?
With Murray out, it's safe to again refer to Nadal, Djokovic and Federer as the Big Three. And speaking of the Big Three, what's with their form?
World No. 1 Djokovic was superb, dominating the Australian Open and then beating Nadal at his favorite Monte Carlo event. But he then backed that up with shock losses to Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych in the two tournaments after that, which clearly nobody saw coming.
The same goes for Federer. He appeared in his first final of the year last week in Rome against Nadal, and whilst he was beaten in straight sets, he still played very strong in parts.
This, of course, after he was eliminated in the round of 16 weeks earlier.
Or what about Nadal? The man is playing his first Grand Slam tournament after being out for months due to injury, and he has mostly lit up his opponents in the warm-up tournaments.
And yet, with that loss to Djokovic in Monte Carlo, there are still question marks about his form and whether he's again a lock to win the title at his beloved Roland Garros.
It's hard to see someone outside of those three players winning the Grand Slam. Which player it will be, however, is still a little bit up in the air.
Even with all of Nadal's dominance.
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