French Open 2014: Intriguing Storylines Set to Unfold at Roland Garros

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French Open 2014: Intriguing Storylines Set to Unfold at Roland Garros
Michel Euler/Associated Press

The 2014 French Open is now underway, and the action at Roland Garros is sure to see a few important storylines present themselves and develop throughout the clay-court major.

On both the men's and women's sides, questions are being answered of the top names in the sport. Legacies, championship streaks and historic opportunities are on the line, upping the stakes and, thus, the pressure heading into Roland Garros.

Let's break down the biggest storylines to watch for that are sure to unfold in the coming weeks.

 

Will Novak Djokovic Complete Career Grand Slam?

Michel Euler/Associated Press

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has six total Grand Slam titles to his credit—four at the Australian Open, and one each at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

He has none so far at Roland Garros, but this could be his year.

Djokovic comes in as the second seed, with Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych and more serious contenders on his half of the bracket. Get past them and it could be a Rome Masters rematch with Rafael Nadal, which Djokovic won.

The Serbian last made the French Open final in 2012, and if he makes it there again to potentially face Nadal, he'll be looking for redemption from that defeat—as if the Spaniard being an eight-time champion isn't enough motivation.

If Djokovic ends up lifting the French Open trophy, he will become just the eighth person in men's singles to complete the career Grand Slam and join both Federer and Nadal in that regard.

 

Rafael Nadal's Quest for Nine

Bertrand Combaldieu/Associated Press

In the past decade, one of the surest bets in sports has been Rafael Nadal winning the French Open.

With eight championships at Roland Garros, he's the all-time leader in the Open era. He won four straight French Opens between 2005 and 2008, before taking his only loss as a pro there in 2009. Since then, he has won a further four in a row again, with the chance to pass Bjorn Borg for the most consecutive French Open titles if he is successful in 2014.

But it hasn't been an easy road to get to Roland Garros. In fact, he's been defeated three times on clay heading into the French Open for the first time in a decade.

He only had positive things to say about his struggles early on in 2014, though, per RolandGarros.com:

During the clay court season I get a little bit better week by week. Last week in Rome, it was tough physically. I played a lot of time, but in the end sometimes you need these things.

I was not that happy about what I did in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, but that's sport. The dynamic is positive, so that's always important for confidence. I felt that in Rome I was able to play without the nerves, the anxiety that I had in the first two tournaments and at some moments in Madrid, too. So that's always a positive thing.

Nadal's struggles heading into the tournament are worrying, considering it's at a rate he hasn't seen since before he became a French Open champ. But if he ends up winning, it won't have been the first time he's come into Roland Garros without momentum and left with the trophy.

He's already the best to ever grace the French Open, but he can put himself on an even higher pedestal by claiming No. 9.

 

Roger Federer Hoping to Build off Strong Start

Riccardo De Luca/Associated Press

While players such as Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka have grown in stature during recent years, living legend Roger Federer has fallen quite a bit off the radar during the same period.

Federer has only won one major since the 2010 Australian Open, and he will go two full years without a Grand Slam title should he fail to win one in 2014. However, so far this season, there have been promising signs from the Swiss star.

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He has made it to the quarterfinals of every tournament he's played in so far in 2014 before losing early at the Rome Masters. With a Dubai Tennis Championships title and an Australian Open semifinal appearance, he has had success against the top dogs.

Some added strength has been a big difference from 2013 to 2014, per RolandGarros.com:

“I have become again a touch stronger in the last few weeks and months really. It is important after the year I had last year that I do take those opportunities when I have them to work very hard.”

Federer is the only other person to win the French Open since Nadal first won at Roland Garros in 2005.

Federer will be looking to channel his success from that 2009 victory, and hope that his Rome Masters flop wasn't a sign of things to come.

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