Roland Garros 2013: Sleepers to Watch for in Early Rounds of French Open

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IMay 26, 2013

ROME, ITALY - MAY 16:  Ernests Gulbis of Latvia in action during his third round match against Rafael Nadal of Spain on day five of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2013 at the Foro Italico Tennis Centre on May 16, 2013 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are the obvious favorites heading into the 2013 French Open this summer in Roland Garros, but what about the field?

Like every year, there's guaranteed to be a few surprises in Paris this year. While Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are certain locks to reach the late stages of the men's draw, not every top-seeded star will be so lucky.

In the spirit of the sleeper, let's take a closer look at three under-the-radar players to watch for in the early rounds of the 2013 French Open.


Nicolas Almagro

Fresh off an appearance in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros a year ago, 27-year-old Nicolas Almagro will look to earn his first-ever Grand Slam semifinal appearance in Paris this summer.

A gifted clay-court player, Almagro has gone 17-9 at the French Open since 2004, reaching the quarterfinals three times over that stretch.

In one of his most successful tournament appearances this season, Almagro reached the final of the Barcelona Open without dropping a single set. He would lose to Rafael Nadal in the championship match, but not before beating fellow-clay-court stars Marcel Granollers, Juan Monaco and Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Having defeated top-10 players like Andy Murray and Janko Tipsarevic at Roland Garros in the past, Almagro is one of the top sleepers to keep an eye on this summer without question.

He will open up against Austria's Andreas Haider-Maurer in the first round.


Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic was on top of the tennis world after winning the French Open in 2008, reaching the No. 1 ranking that summer before falling off the radar.

Prior to the 2012 U.S. Open, the 25-year-old Serb hadn't reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament since her title at Roland Garros in 2008. But five years later, Ivanovic looks ready to make another deep run in Paris.

Having reached the semifinals of the Madrid Open this May and having won over 78 percent of her career singles matches at the French Open, Ivanovic is a legitimate contender in the women's draw.

With fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska at the top of Ivanovic's quarter of the bracket, there's no reason why she can't reach the quarterfinals this summer. After all, Radwanska has been knocked out within the first two rounds at each of the past two Slams at Roland Garros.

Ivanovic's French Open journey will begin against Croatia's Petra Martic in the opening round.


Ernests Gulbis

Don't let Ernests Gulbis' ranking fool you. Despite sitting at No. 39 in the ATP world rankings, the 24-year-old Latvian is no stranger to deep runs at the French Open.

A quarterfinalist at Roland Garros in 2008, Gulbis has achieved plenty of success on clay, defeating John Isner in Monte Carlo last month and reaching the third round of the Rome Masters earlier this month, where he lost to eventual champion Rafael Nadal in three sets.

Gulbis possesses an excellent backhand that can give opponents problems from time to time. That shot will be key for him in Paris as he attempts to get out of the first round alive for the first time since 2009.

Gulbis will open up against Brazil's Rogerio Dutra Silva in Round 1. If he can pick up a win there he could potentially be pitted against fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych in the second round.


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