Roland Garros 2013: Unheralded Players Who Have Become Legitimate Contenders

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 02:  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France celebrates match point during his Men's Singles match against Viktor Troicki of Serbia during day eight of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 2, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

In the mind of many tennis followers, a player is only as good as their performance in Grand Slams. Some talented competitors are truly changing perceptions with their showing at Roland Garros.

The sport has lacked a great deal of depth, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic dominating the major events for many years. If you were to pick someone other than one of these three to win the French Open title, you would probably be considered crazy.

However, a few lesser-known players have shown that they are fully capable of making a serious run at the prestigious championship. These guys have already displayed an incredible effort in the early rounds and have a chance to win it all if things go their way.


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Likely France's best hope for a hometown champion, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has been fantastic in his first few matches.

In four matches, he has not lost a single set, and his serve has been incredible. His most recent victory over Viktor Troicki saw him with 73 percent of his first serves, which was his lowest of the tournament. In all other matches, he has won over 80 percent.

The French star has never been especially strong on clay in his career, but he has gotten better at Roland Garros in recent years. In 2012, he reached the quarterfinals for the first time ever.

Tsonga is now back to that stage and looking to improve upon his past results. However, it only gets tougher from this point on.

For him, the key will be to continue his efficient serving. If he keeps getting his early shots in play with his great velocity, he has the ability to beat anyone in the world.


David Ferrer

While David Ferrer has been ranked in the top five for over a year, he is generally considered to be a large step below the "Big Three" and even Andy Murray. However, the veteran continues to get better with age.

The Spanish player has now reached at least the quarterfinals of the last six Grand Slam events. He was also one win away from reaching the semifinals in four of the last five. 

Additionally, he is currently playing on his favorite surface. Ferrer owns a 71.1 career winning percentage on clay, which is his personal best. 

During his current run at the French Open, Ferrer has not lost a set and seems to only be getting better. He dominated his fourth-round match against Kevin Anderson by a score of 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

Ferrer gave Nadal a tough time at the last two tournaments in Rome and Madrid. There are not too many players capable of upsetting the seven-time Roland Garros winner, but Ferrer is one of them, and he could get that opportunity in this event.


Stanislas Wawrinka

Compared to the other players on the list, Stanislas Wawrinka has not had as easy of a time getting through the earlier rounds, but he does keep winning. In reality, that is all that matters.

He has also proved that his injury that forced him to withdraw from the Rome Masters is behind him.

Before this event, Wawrinka was playing some of the best tennis of his life. He won a clay tournament at Oerias and then reached the final at Madrid before falling to Nadal in the last round. During these runs, he defeated some quality competition that includes Tsonga, Ferrer and Tomas Berdych.

The problem is that his run looks to be as tough as anyone in the field going forward with both Nadal and Djokovic looming on his side of the bracket.

However, he has the momentum as well as the confidence to push past these stars on his way to his best ever performance at a Grand Slam.


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