French Open 2013 was an exciting and often unpredictable tournament outside of Rafael Nadal's usual trophy ceremony. It featured an epic clash of champions with Nadal vs. Djokovic in the semifinals, a Horatio Alger hero in David Ferrer and a most unwelcome fireworks display during the men's final.
The victory feast has hardly cooled, but the scene will now shift from Dante's red clay inferno to the idyllic green lawns of Wimbledon tradition. But before bidding "adieu" to the French Open, there are several shifting stories that have redefined some of the roles for the players on stage.
The following is a look at the recent performances of twenty players who are most likely to build on their French Open momentum or disappointments to be strong contenders at Wimbledon.
Here are your contestants.
French Momentum: Lost in the third round to Stanislas Wawrinka. Won the second-set tiebreaker, but was more erratic and unable to control the match against his more seasoned opponent.
Hot or Cold? Warm. Opponents are wary of his big forehand and serve. Before their Rome quarterfinals match, Roger Federer said, via ATP.com, "He obviously has a big game, unconventional shot selection at times, but really fun to watch...he’s got that big of a game and I’ve got to be careful."
Wimbledon Outlook: He is 22 years old and 6'8". Rarely do giant tennis players supplement their powerful gifts with nimble footwork and defense. However, he has good tennis athleticism and instincts—traits that can make him a candidate for a deep run at Wimbledon.
Final French Analysis: As expected, Rosol lost his second-round match to Fabio Fognini in four sets, and missed an opportunity to be trampled by a revenge-driven Rafael Nadal. Maybe that's best.
Hot or Cold? Warm. Since his shock-the-world win over Rafael Nadal at 2012 Wimbledon, Rosol has steadily climbed the rankings to peak at No. 33. He won the Bucharest clay title in April and seems determined to shed his label as a one-match wonder.
Wimbledon Outlook: Don't think last year's Wimbledon match won't help Rosol's belief. He has the confidence of knowing he hit Nadal off the court, serving and attacking as if he were Pistol Pete Sampras. Can he drive his success into the second week this year? He sure won't sneak up on anybody this time.
Final French Analysis: Disappointing second round exodus to a suddenly resurgent Gael Monfils. Yes, this is France, but for Gulby's occasional brashness, this was his match to lose.
Hot or Cold? Warm. In February, Gulbis won 13 straight matches on hard courts, but found that the red clay has a way of slowly sapping resolve. It's like trying to run a marathon in the Sahara Desert. He should feel confident heading into the grass- and hard-court season with quicker pace and matches.
Wimbledon Outlook: Don't expect the Big Four to take it easy on Gulbis after his comments on how they are boring personalities. There's also a chance that this will galvanize Gulbis and bring more excitement to London, especially if his inconsistent forehand backs his powerful backhand and serve.
Final French Analysis: Should have put up a better fight in his third-round defeat against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. After all, the hopes of France would have followed him as well.
Hot or Cold? Cooling. After peaking as an Australian Open quarterfinalist, Chardy seemed ready to perform better in the clay-court season. He has wonderful all-court skills—a poor man's Roger Federer—but has been unable to fulfill his potential.
Wimbledon Outlook: With the right draw and the world watching other more flamboyant stars, Chardy could be a second-week surprise. Maybe it finally comes together, but at age 26 it might be farfetched to see him push his career towards the top 10.
Final French Analysis: The third-round loss to Kei Nishikori halted some of his hot momentum. He unleashed on the chair umpire and allowed his opportunity to drift away to his more patient opponent.
Hot or Cold? Heating up. Good semifinal run at Rome in battling Federer. Not nearly as talented as his idol Marat Safin, but can match Safin's fiery temperament. He will need to channel this into more improved composure and tennis. Often when a young player finally hits his stride, it's difficult to accept the inevitable bumps and bruises. Can he develop greater calm and resilience?
Wimbledon Outlook: Last year, Paire got to the grass-court finals against David Ferrer at 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. He should not have lost to Brian Baker in the third round at Wimbledon. His strong backhand and good reflexes are a good fit on today's slower grass-court conditions. He could be a surprising and dangerous player with the right draw.
Final French Analysis: After an impressive third-round sweep of Milos Raonic, Kevin Anderson was no match for Spanish clay king No. 2, David Ferrer.
Hot or Cold? Hot. Anderson is having his best year. He also reached his career-high fourth round at the Australian Open. Often, journeymen can find a second life in their late 20s because they have accepted the highs and lows of the tour, and they figure out how to play around their weaknesses. Young prospects like Raonic are typically prime victims for tough veterans.
Wimbledon Outlook: On paper, Wimbledon should be more conducive to Anderson's big serving. The key will be for him to sharpen his returns and capitalize on the few break points he is likely to see.
Final French Analysis: Wawrinka picked off young Jerzy Janowicz. He won a dogfight match with a comeback five-set victory against Richard Gasquet. It all crashed with the inevitable steamroll loss to Nadal.
Hot or Cold? Semi-hot. He has methodically climbed back to the top 10, where he once resided in 2008. Some of his increasing determination may be attributed to new coach Magnus Norman, who knows the value in savoring every tennis opportunity.
Wimbledon Outlook: Many applaud his excellent single backhand. It's strong on the baseline, but will not be enough if he hopes to get past the fourth round at Wimbledon. Typically, he has not been able to beat the very top players, and this seems like an unlikely tournament to break his infamous 11-match losing streak to compatriot Roger Federer.
Final French Analysis: Excellent third-round win over hot-playing Frenchman Benoit Paire. Some people wondered if he could knock off a "struggling" Rafael Nadal, but he was dismissed in three easy sets.
Hot or Cold? Warm. Steady tennis progress has seen his ranking hover inside the top 20 for the past year. Can he build on wins such as defeating Roger Federer at Madrid? The Nadal loss is a reminder of how difficult it is to gain admittance to tennis's exclusive club of champions.
Wimbledon Outlook: He is like Danny Granger, a skilled, finesse NBA small forward who is reluctant to mix elbows inside the key. Nishikori's tennis game must became more physical in an increasingly brutish ATP tour. Unless he can add more power to push back opponents, his best-case scenario would be trying to mimic a career similar to David Ferrer's.
Final French Analysis: Raonic found his progress gridlocked in Round 3, a crushing defeat to Kevin Anderson. The clay-court season was a step back from 2012.
Hot or Cold? Cold. Tennis fans are enamored with his giant serve, but the 22-year-old Canadian can play solid baseline tennis. He must dictate his offense, because his scrambling on clay is more of a plodding effort—an ox in the mire.
Wimbledon Outlook: Wimbledon is the perfect landscape for his massive serve. He could roll through the right draw if he can keep dictating the tempo with short points. There's nothing more frustrating for baseline players than trying to establish their rhythm against big servers. Raonic must likewise capitalize on his opportunities to win big points. Will this be his great leap forward?
Final French Analysis: In the fourth round, up two sets, Gasquet faded in losing to Stanislas Wawrinka. It was one of the tournament's best matches, but will clearly be lost in the shadows of the Nadal-Djokovic semifinal.
Hot or Cold? Warm. He can play reasonably well on any surface, but may want to brush up on the down-the-line backhand he employed to defeat Andy Roddick in his career-best quarterfinal victory at 2007 Wimbledon. It's been a long road back to the top 10, but he's stubbornly held on since November.
Wimbledon Outlook: Gasquet will never be the star he was projected to be when he made that 2007 Wimbledon semifinal appearance. Perhaps his early flirtation with fame was "too much, too soon." Would it have been better for Gasquet to ease into the tour with more modest expectations? Any young player projected to be another Roger Federer is doomed to fail with this comparison.
Final French Analysis: Routine trip to the third round before getting blasted by Novak Djokovic. Did he compete hard enough in only taking seven games?
Hot or Cold? Cold and hot. It depends on the day, and really that's his biggest problem. He pushed Nadal at Monte Carlo and defeated Djokovic at Madrid, but he must learn to bring his best from one city and opponent to the next. Good clay-court season, but shaken up at the end.
Wimbledon Outlook: This is an important summer for him to start penetrating several tournaments with three or four wins. Critics charge he needs to improve his conditioning and toughness, but his all-court skills can beat anyone on the right day. A semifinal breakout at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open is plausible.
Final French Analysis: He sat out the French Open because of a virus. It's devastating to miss a Grand Slam tournament, and particularly on clay, where Del Potro's game is well-suited behind powerful baseline groundstrokes. His semifinal appearance from 2009 seems like it was from another century.
Hot or Cold? Ice cold. Del Potro continues his frustrating pattern of playing well (finalist at Indian Wells) and then disappearing. The clay-court season was a bust, and it begs the question if Del Potro has already peaked. He won the U.S. Open in 2009, but after a wrist injury has not been able to gain the confidence and consistency to be a true Slam contender. It's increasingly likely that we've seen the best of Del Potro, but that doesn't mean he can't have a few unexpected Grand Slam streaks.
Wimbledon Outlook: It seems unlikely he can just turn it on for Wimbledon. Perhaps rest will re-energize his mind and commitment as well as his body. The past two years saw him get to the fourth round at Wimbledon, but it may be too much this year.
Final French Analysis: It was a storybook French Open for Ferrer, except for the dragon at the end. It's just that nobody has been able to beat Rafael Nadal in the French Open finals. Ferrer's matches were all straight-sets affairs. He was dominant against the likes of Kevin Anderson and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Hot or Cold: Hot. It would have been nice for Ferrer to pick up a set or two, but it's hard to fault him for a poor final. As a small consolation, Ferrer will move past Nadal for No. 4 in the ATP rankings. He's also legitimately the third best player on clay.
Wimbledon Outlook: Ferrer loses much of his indefatigable advantages on grass. He will need to rely on his excellent returns of serve and put pressure on bigger servers. Last year, Ferrer made it to the quarterfinals, and with his momentum and fight could be a semifinal possibility. His journeyman career continues to ripen most deliciously.
Final French Analysis: There is no excuse for losing in the first round. Yes, Gael Monfils was once a top-10 player, but it's almost as if Berdych simply melted at the prospect of dueling the crowd as well as his opponent. There's no defending his weak effort.
Hot or Cold: Cold again. Berdych's career is like the weather in the American Midwest. One hour his tennis is warm and delightful, then an hour later turns to heavy rain. His tempestuous play is mixed by big-hitting talent and poor play in big matches. There is a lengthy list of variables that can derail his best tennis.
Wimbledon Outlook: Three years ago he was a Wimbledon finalist, losing to Nadal, whose mental toughness quickly dwarfed Berdych's hopeful chance. There's nothing to suggest Berdych can match that effort, but he is the proverbial "guy you don't want to face when he gets it all together."
Final French Analysis: Outstanding tournament including a five-set survival match in the third round against big-serving John Isner. Bowed out in the quarterfinals to Novak Djokovic, but was tough in final two sets.
Hot or Cold? Semi-hot. Haas continues to show remarkable consistency on all surfaces. He was a semifinalist at Miami and fared well on clay until running into revenge-minded Djokovic, who simply was not going to be denied. Haas is playing some of the best tennis of his career and knows how to deal with adversity.
Wimbledon Outlook: Better yet, Haas's all-court game is a great fit on grass. Four years ago, he was a semifinalist at Wimbledon. Last year, he defeated Roger Federer at Halle to resurrect his career. He can serve and volley, hit his beautiful backhand and produce thinking man's tennis shots. He is a throwback to pre-Nadal tennis, and will have great crowd support.
Final French Analysis: Time to applaud Tsonga for his career-best run at Roland Garros. He dominated Roger Federer in the quarterfinals and seemed to have a golden opportunity to get to the finals. Losing to David Ferrer is no embarrassment. In hindsight, he was matched against a better and more experienced clay-court player.
Hot or Cold? Very hot. Tsonga is the type of player who needs success to build even more. He does not need to press to do more, but rather look to cut back on self-inflicting wounds. His reflexes and talent are tailor-made for Wimbledon's quick lawns.
Wimbledon Outlook: Look for another deep run at Wimbledon. He has excellent touch and power, which can be a problem for players like Federer and Nadal. A consistent serve and more of a commitment to come to net could pay huge dividends. If all goes well, he could conceivably win Wimbledon.
Final French Analysis: Murray's back injury sidelined him for the French Open, but this might be a blessing in disguise. "I hope so - that's the sort of attitude you need to take," Murray said, according to Reuters.
Hot or Cold? Cold. Two years in a row, he faded and then fell upon the hellish red clay. It's not a real surprise, as he has often spoken of his priority to place Wimbledon first. The green grass at his homelands should put extra spring in his step.
Wimbledon Outlook: Murray explained how the time off has already helped his preparations. "Grass takes time to get used to. I've been on it for 10 days or so now and that's probably a week longer than I would have had if I'd been at the French." He would like nothing more than to remove long-suffering references to Fred Perry.
Final French Analysis: Rallied to win a tough five-set match in the fourth round, but ran out of gas in a straight-sets quarterfinals loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Hot or Cold? Cold. Maybe the Indian Wells back injury is most to blame for Federer's limited action in the clay-court season. The Swiss Maestro did make a run to the Rome finals, and until the Tsonga match fairly cruised through his quarter. The French Open disappointment won't shake his confidence, but there is concern if he can stay healthy and fresh for more consistent greatness.
Wimbledon Outlook: Nobody prepares better for Wimbledon than Federer. His mind and skills are calculus and ballet, but can his body find the fountain of youth? He is still the best player in the world with quick conditions, and if the roof goes up in early July his chances are good. Federer typically does great the first week against the draw, but will need great energy deep in the second week.
Final French Analysis: What else can you say about Nadal at Roland Garros? In time, only obsessive tennis fans will remember his struggles in the first week, but it's also a tribute to his problem-solving resilience. His epic semifinal win over Novak Djokovic may rank as one of his three most impressive wins. The crushing finals victory over David Ferrer was the icing on the cake.
Hot or Cold? Red hot. He struggled more to win the Musketeers Cup this time around, but on the year has won titles at Brazil, Mexico, Indian Wells, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Paris. Only two losses on the season is remarkable, especially considering he finally did not win Monte Carlo. Nobody's perfect.
Wimbledon Outlook: Nadal will skip the Halle grass-court tune-up that may have led to further fatigue and knee problems for his injury in late June 2012. The key is for him to rest his body and find enough conditioning and timing on grass. The first week at Wimbledon could be dangerous once again with the fresher and faster lawns. By week two, it can play more like hard dirt if the sun cooperates. If healthy, Nadal will have a great opportunity to storm up the rankings with points to gain the rest of the year.
French Momentum: He handled Dimitrov, Kohlschreiber and Haas before his crushing semifinal defeat by Rafael Nadal. He did everything possible, save conquering the most difficult task in tennis history.
Hot or Cold? Hot. Sure he lost, but Djokovic is the most resilient player in tennis, along with his unnamed nemesis. There are few players ever who would have battled with half his tenacity. It just wasn't his day. Sometimes even the great champions can only say "too good."
Summer Success: Unless he plays a resurgent Federer with the roof closed, Djokovic's laser-like groundstrokes and returns are a powerful force on Wimbledon's grass. Bet on Djokovic in his next big Slam-defining match, whatever the conditions and whoever he plays. Maybe in 10 years he will look back at 2013 French Open as "the one that got away," but for now there are cities to sack.