The 2013 French Open will be full of surprises and upsets in both the men's and women’s tournaments.
Even reaching the semifinals will be difficult for some of the top tennis players in the world and the higher seeds at Roland Garros. Everyone needs to be on his or her toes to avoid an early-round or quarterfinal elimination.
Just last year, Andy Murray, who was the No. 4, was taken down in the quarterfinals. Three of the top 10 seeds in the men’s bracket didn’t even make it that far as John Isner was defeated in the second round and Tomas Berdych and Janko Tipsarevic both fell in the fourth round.
No matter what seed someone is, a semifinal berth won’t be a walk in the park. Here are the contenders that we will see exit Roland Garros earlier than expected.
Maria Sharapova, No. 2 Seed
Sharapova enters the 2013 French Open with a big target on her back. She won the title a year ago, defeating Sara Errani, the No. 23 seed, in the tournament finale. Whether she’ll have the opportunity to repeat, though, is in question.
The Russia native has been great on clay this season, though. She recently won the Tennis Grand Prix and was the runner-up at the Madrid Open. She could have won the Rome Open as well but was forced to withdraw in the quarterfinals due to illness.
Sharapova enters this year’s tournament at Roland Garros as the No. 2 seed, behind Serena Williams and ahead of Azarenka. There’s the chance that she would take on Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals, but I’m not even sure she’ll make it to that point.
That’s because a fourth-round matchup could come against Sloane Stephens, one of the up-and-coming women’s tennis players in the world. She made it to the fourth round last year and recently lost in the semifinals at the 2013 Australian Open.
Stephens, who enters the French Open as the No. 17 seed, will definitely give Sharapova a run for her money and could end up with the first major upset of the tournament.
Sharapova is certainly one of the players to watch at Roland Garros, but that’s because she might lose earlier than expected instead of winning for a second straight year.
Roger Federer, No. 2 Seed
Federer moved up a seed due to the withdrawal of Murray, but that won’t necessarily help his chances to win his second French Open, or even make it very far.
Who would win in a Federer-Tsonga matchup?
It’s no secret that Roland Garros hasn’t been friendly to Federer in the past, as his 80.6 win percentage coming into the tournament was his worst of any other Grand Slam event. His results on clay this year haven’t been great, despite a finals loss at the Rome Open.
More recently, Federer was upended in the third round at the Madrid Open by Kei Nishikori in three sets.
Michael J. Fenson of The Star-Ledger deemed Federer the easiest out on the men’s side of the tournament and I couldn’t agree more. If Federer is going to make it to the semifinals, he’ll likely have to take out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the No. 6 seed at Roland Garros.
Tsonga, however, was more than impressive last year against Djokovic in the quarterfinals in five sets. He will be a tough out for Federer to say the least.
Li Na, No. 6 Seed
It was just two years ago when Li Na defeated Francesca Schiavone to win the 2011 French Open. Despite entering the tournament as the No. 6 seed, Li had a tough road the final, defeating some of the top women in the world.
In the quarterfinals, Li took down No. 4 seed Azarenka. She then went on to defeat No. 7 Maria Sharapova in the semifinals before winning it all over Schiavone, the No. 5 seed, in the finals.
Li didn’t have much success defending her title, though, as Yaroslava Shvedova upset her in the fourth round. Shvedova would be taken down in the quarterfinals against Petra Kvitova.
Li recently reached the final of the Australian Open, but Azarenka got the best of her. She was also the runner-up at the Tennis Grand Prix, but fell in the first and third rounds of the other two clay tournaments she’s participated in this season.
If Li is going to attempt to win her second French Open title, she’ll likely have to go through Azarenka first. If each wins her fourth-round matchup, the pair would face off in the quarterfinals.
Azarenka and Li know each other relatively well and a quarterfinal matchup would just be another chapter in their history. There’s no doubt that Azarenka would like to avenge her 2011 loss at Roland Garros to Li and she could get that opportunity this year.