The 2013 French Open has finally arrived, and though Sunday marks the mere beginning of what should be another thrilling Grand Slam showcase at Roland Garros, there are still plenty of exciting matches on tap.
Roger Federer is the biggest name in action on the men's side, while Serena Williams is the headliner for the women. The Fed has an intriguing opening opponent, while Serena's sister, Venus, may be in for an early exit.
Those are just some of the developments to monitor in Paris. Below is a listing of the complete schedule for the first day of action, along with predictions for the marquee showdowns.
Where: Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France
When: Sunday, May 26
Watch: NBC, ESPN2 and Tennis Channel
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Schedule for Day 1
|Sunday, May 26||5 a.m.-10 a.m.||First Round||ESPN2|
|Sunday, May 26||10 a.m.-7 p.m.||First Round||Tennis|
|Sunday, May 26||12 p.m.-3 p.m.||First Round||NBC|
Predictions for Sunday's Top Matches
Roger Federer (2) vs. Pablo Carreno-Busta
As hinted at before, this isn't exactly an opening-round cakewalk for Federer. Pablo Carreno-Busta began the 2013 season at No. 654 in the world rankings.
Thanks to seven victories in Futures tournaments, the 21-year-old Spaniard has ascended all the way to 166th. Though it is the circuit's third tier of competition, per NDTV Sports, Carreno-Busta's record in that span is 53-4.
Among the notable foes Carrena-Busta has beaten in ATP-level events is Pablo Andujar, who beat Kei Nishikori in the Madrid Masters semifinals. Nishikori beat Federer in the prior match.
It's a daisy chain of matches that isn't directly used here as an argument. However, it is a testament to the minimal gap between up-and-coming players of Carrena-Busta's caliber and some of the premier ATP veterans.
Christopher Clarey of the New York Times proclaimed Carreno-Busta the toughest first-round opponent Federer could have drawn:
Federer isn't in the best form, either, having gotten blown out in Rome in a final matchup against defending French Open champion Rafael Nadal.
Expect the legendary Federer to be sharp in his match, but don't be surprised of Carreno-Busta flashes frequent brilliance and pushes one of the sets to a tiebreaker.
Prediction—Federer wins: 6-3, 7-6, 6-2
Urszula Radwanska vs. Venus Williams (30)
Williams is definitely in the twilight of her career, and isn't the same player she was in winning 10 Grand Slam events—the last of which coming back in 2008.
Venus Williams' back injury is going to hinder her serve to Laura Robson if her practice session here in Rome is anything to go by.— Russell Fuller (@russellcfuller) May 13, 2013
The opening-round, straight-sets loss to Laura Robson wasn't pretty, as the future Hall of Famer Williams only won five games total.
Radwanska isn't the most intimidating opponent— certainly not as formidable as her sister, Agnieszka—but she is a player whose fluidity is enviable, and she does boast a recent victory over Ana Ivanovic in Rome.
Given the health issues Williams is having and how it affects her typically powerful serve, I like Radwanska to pull the slight upset over the No. 30 seed.
Prediction—Radwanska wins: 7-6, 4-6, 6-3
Gilles Simon (15) vs. Lleyton Hewitt
This seems like a mismatch on paper, but it's never wise to count out a scrappy, experienced veteran just because he isn't seeded.
In Hewitt's case, that's especially true, considering he's a former world No. 1 and past Grand Slam champion. The competitive fire is still there for Hewitt, though this is the only of tennis' four marquee men's tournaments that Hewitt hasn't reached the final in—or even the semis.
Nevertheless, Simon must brace himself for a grueling, physically demanding match on the clay surface.
Tennis author Lindsay Gibbs believes this is the match of Round 1 that has all the makings of going the full five sets:
Gilles Simon/Lleyton Hewitt will be the match that kills us all in the first round. It will never end.— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) May 24, 2013
Simon is no slouch himself, having reached as high as No. 6 in the world. Both players are very fit, and that should lead to hotly contested games, with each player breaking each other multiple times in any given set.
This shouldn't necessarily go five sets, but there could easily be multiple tiebreakers while the outcome is decided. Though it will be scrappy, Simon will emerge as the victor over the feisty Aussie.
Prediction—Simon wins: 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5