The 2013 French Open is set to begin on Sunday, and the field of competition is rather interesting to say the least.
Rafael Nadal is the No. 3 seed on the men's side; however, he's an obvious favorite since the Spaniard has won at Roland Garros seven of the previous eight years. That said, the men also are without two strong contenders in Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro.
Murray, according to BBC Sport, is out from a back injury:
BBC Sport @BBCSport
Here's more details on @andy_murray's withdrawal from the French Open with a back injury http://t.co/WdMYwRUoS2 #bbctennis2013-5-21 21:48:44
Del Potro, on the other hand, has an illness as reported by Tennis World:
World No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro becoming the second big name to withdraw officially from the second grand slam of the season.
Potro flew back to Argentina on the week to get treated for a respiratory illness.
Flip to the women's side and Serena Williams sits atop the WTA rankings, although she has not claimed the French Open since 2002. Her elite counterpart Maria Sharapova, though, looks to be the first woman to repeat since Justine Henin won the hat trick from 2005 through 2007.
So, with the second Grand Slam of the season about to get underway, let's predict each final matchup.
Rafael Nadal (3) over Tomas Berdych (5)
This tournament is Nadal's to lose. Trying for an eighth French Open title, Nadal has a favorable draw to begin. Despite contenders such as Benoit Paire, Stanislas Wawrinka and Jerzy Janowicz having upset potential, Nadal is far better than anyone they have faced on clay.
Thereafter, Novak Djokovic is the expected challenger in the semifinals.
And although Djokovic defeated Nadal in Monaco, that also occurred in early April. Since then, Nadal has continued to dominate, whereas Djokovic was upset in Madrid and Italy. The man who refused to give up against Djokovic in Rome was Tomas Berdych.
Berdych is not an appealing pick for the final, but his draw is capable of making a strong run.
He won't face any elite competition until David Ferrer and Berdych has more confidence entering France. Along with the aforementioned win over Djokovic, Berdych defeated Murray in straight sets in Madrid and Roger Federer in Dubai's semifinals.
The common denominator between Ferrer and Berdych has mostly been Nadal. So, the winner here has the talent to outlast Federer. And given the Swiss' struggles versus top players this season, Berdych's chances are better than at first glance.
It's just defeating Nadal that will continue to be an issue for everyone at the French Open.
Serena Williams (1) over Maria Sharapova (2)
Here we have a colossal showdown between the No. 1 seed Serena Williams and the No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova.
Williams doesn't necessarily have the easier road, because for one, she has not made it past the quarterfinals since 2003 (semifinals). In addition, Williams has Ana Ivanovic and Sara Errani on her side of the bracket: Each are capable of pulling the upset.
Ivanovic won at Roland Garros in 2008 and was the 2007 runner-up. As for Errani, she was 2012's second-place finisher to Sharapova. Fortunately for Williams, those two are on the same section of the top bracket: Meaning, she would only have to face one before the final.
Switching gears to Sharapova, the most legit competition resides on the other section of her bracket. Na Li and Victoria Azarenka would have to face off in the quarterfinals for the chance to knock off the defending champ.
Given Sharapova's record against the field on clay, though, Williams is her only true challenge. Three times this season, Williams has defeated Sharapova and twice in straight sets.
So until Sharapova proves to overcome Williams, the American wins her second Roland Garros.