French Open 2013: The Biggest Surprises at Roland Garros

Jeff Cohn@jeff_cohnCorrespondent IIIJune 5, 2013

French Open 2013: The Biggest Surprises at Roland Garros

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    The 2013 French Open semifinals stages are set on both the men's and women's sides.

    Some things played out exactly as we expected, such as the upcoming Djokovic-Nadal showdown.

    However, there were shocking upsets and several under-the-radar players emerged to make deep runs in the tournament.

    Many questions about the potential Roland Garros champions remain unanswered for now, but the script will unfold shortly.

    Here are the biggest surprises of the tournament entering the semifinal stages.

A Non-Big-Four Player in the Final

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    The Big Four, consisting of Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, have been almost unbreakable in the past five years.

    But, with Murray's withdrawal from the event and Federer's loss in the quarterfinals, the potential opponent in the final (for Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal) will either be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or David Ferrer.

    This will mark the first time a player outside of the Big Four will play in a Major final since Tomas Berdych faced Rafael Nadal at the end of the 2010 Wimbledon fortnight.

    Surely the odds will not be in Tsonga or Ferrer's favor, but they have made it this far and would only need to pull off one more upset to win.

    The Frenchman lost in his only previous Major final to Novak Djokovic at the 2008 Australian Open while Ferrer has never reached the championship match before.

Sara Errani Returns to the Semis

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    After last year's magical run to the French Open final, the feisty Italian, Sara Errani, is looking to defend her ranking points.

    She was 0-26 against top-five players throughout her whole career until she broke that streak with a win over the fourth seed, Agnieska Radwanska, in her last match.

    Her heavy, high-bouncing forehand to the backhand side has been doing some serious damage on the red clay.

    She has been steamrolling the competition up until this point, dropping only one set (to Carla Suarrez Navarro) en route to the semis.

    Next up, she will face Serena Williams, who will likely take her out one match prior to her best result from last year. It seems the Italians have been getting better and better each year, which all stemmed from Francesca Schiavone's 2010 Major title in Paris and subsequent final in 2011.

    Even Roberta Vinci, who is Errani's doubles partner, has improved as of late.

Victoria Azarenka Reaches Her First French Open Semifinal

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    Perhaps this is less of a surprise and more of an "it was going to happen eventually" result.

    Still, she has never been this far into the tournament before and is still looking to win the tournament that has been the toughest for her throughout her young career.

    She may not win the title this year but is showing constant signs of improvement and better results on big stages.

    Azarenka's ability to transition from the hard courts to the clay season may be a slight indication of how well she may perform at the Wimbledon Championships on grass.

Tommy Robredo Makes History and the Quarterfinals

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    Surely, Tommy Robredo is on the last leg of his career.

    He plays a physical game, his results are slightly worse than they were and he is 31 years old.

    On top of that he can sometimes be a slow starter in matches, which was very evident in his Roland Garros run.

    After an easy first-round match, the 32nd-seeded Spaniard had to recover from a 2-0 set deficit in three consecutive matches.

    This was the first time in the Open Era that a man had accomplished the feat and just the second time in history.

    He was taken out quickly by fellow countryman, David Ferrer, but his career may forever be remembered for this one brave journey to the French Open quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic Has Not Been Tested

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    Besides dropping his only set of the tournament to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fourth round, Nole has been in a very safe position.

    The No. 1-ranked Serb had two close straight-set encounters with David Goffin (in the first round) and Tommy Haas (in the quarters), though he has not been made to look uncomfortable at all.

    He has placed the most emphasis on this single tournament, which is the only Major he has yet to win (and may never win so long as Rafael Nadal is playing at a healthy and competitive level).

    Last year he lost in a tough final battle to the King of Clay, and this year the two will have a rematch in the semifinals.

    It is highly probable and expected that the winner of that match will go on to win the title.

    Can Rafa take Nole out of his comfort zone and the tournament?

Serena Was Vulnerable in the Quarterfinals

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    Serena was far from her best when facing Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Last Eight stage.

    After a decisive 6-1 set to start out the match, the American started to make more unforced errors and was also being bossed around by the Russian in baseline rallies.

    The former French Open champion, Kuznetsova, won the second set 6-3 and was up an early break in the final set.

    Serena was screaming at herself, the crowd and the players' box but eventually toughed it out to reach the semifinal in Paris for the first time in 10 years.

    She has won this tournament once before but would certainly love to add another trophy to her cabinet to better establish herself as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

    Let's see how she puts up with Sara Errani in the Final Four.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands Reaches the Fourth Round

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    Currently ranked at 67th in the world (which will move up significantly on Monday) Mattek-Sands proved that she is a dangerous floater in the field.

    She can strike the ball hard off both wings and is adept at volleying due to her doubles expertise.

    This was only the second time the American had ever reached the fourth round of a Slam.

    She made headlines for taking out former French Open champion Li Na in the second round after losing the first set.

    She then came back from a set down to make it past the third round and also had a close match with Maria Kirilenko.

    She was certainly not the only American that had a strong showing at this tournament. Maybe Americans are finally understanding and growing to like the red clay surface.

David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Have Not Dropped a Set

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    These two men set to face off in the semis have each won 15 straight sets.

    The unexpected dominance from these lesser-ranked top-10 athletes could be foreshadowing the rest of the year and how it will unfold.

    Ferrer has a terrific work ethic, and even at an older age, he is still one of the best clay-courters in the world.

    Tsonga has seen immense results and success after hiring Roger Rasheed as his new coach.

    He is playing with more precision, guts and smart decision-making.

    Let's see how these warriors will play at the All-England Club for the next major tournament.

Rafa Has Not Been 100 Percent

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    Dropping the opening set in his first two matches the King of Clay looked to be unsettled and in trouble.

    Even in his third-round match, he was in danger of dropping the first set.

    Clearly the Spaniard has often been off to a slow start, but his consistency throughout matches these two weeks has been patchy.

    He is missing some easy forehands and is showing more signs of vulnerability than ever before. Again, this does not mean he will not win the championship, but he might just do so in a less dominant fashion.

    He was able to win Rome and Madrid without playing his best tennis. Nadal only has two more matches to go to be the first man in history with eight titles at the French.

Federer Was Ousted; Gave Up Best Chance to Win Again at Roland Garros

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    The Swiss Maestro had a brief hiccup on his road to the quarterfinals. Gilles Simon was able to take him to five sets but eventually lost.

    Maybe this had something to do with Federer's poor performance against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next round, but hopes for winning the title are now long gone for him.

    He did not show up against a very athletic, inspired and top-tier Tsonga, which made matters much worse.

    Had he won that match, he would have been a near guarantee to reach the final again.

    Perhaps winning the French Open just isn't meant for him as he gets older and takes more time off of his playing schedule. On June 24, he will begin his quest to defend his Wimbledon title from last year to attempt to win his 18th Grand Slam.

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