2013 French Open: Dark Horse Contenders to Watch in Women's Bracket

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2013

2013 French Open: Dark Horse Contenders to Watch in Women's Bracket

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    Serena Williams is the favorite to win the French Open. 

    However, she was also the favorite going into last year's French Open, where she lost in the first round.

    Unlike Rafael Nadal on the men's draw, no Women's Tennis Association player is a sure-thing on clay.

    The last woman to repeat as French Open champion was Justin Henin, who won in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

    Even defending champion Maria Sharapova is no lock to make it to the finals. 

    Counter punchers and clay-court specialists, like Angelique Kerber and Sara Errani, could upset Williams or Sharapova.

    That's why this year's French Open looks anything but bleak for these dark horse contenders.

Angelique Kerber

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    A quarterfinalist at Roland Garros last year, Angelique Kerber has all the tools to succeed on clay.

    Athletic, Kerber moves well. She can counterpunch as well as Caroline Wozniacki. Her groundstrokes are as powerful as Sharapova's.

    Kerber's biggest hurdle will be her back. She pulled out of Fed Cup play in February due to a nagging back injury.

    She's in the same side of the draw as Serena Williams. Kerber upset Williams in Cincinnati last year.

    Before Kerber can worry about Williams, she must get through a tough opening match against fellow German Mona Barthel.

Sara Errani

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    Sara Errani is like The Little Engine That Could.

    Only 5'4", Errani keeps motoring on among the Amazons playing tennis today.

    Runner up at last year's French Open, No. 5 Errani was overwhelmed by the nearly 6"2" Sharapova.

    In Errani's WTA bio, it says she admires David Ferrer. Ferrer is only 5'9".

    Their games are similar. Both are perennial Top 10 players, great on clay, who are still searching for a Grand Slam title.

Jelena Jankovic

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    With so much focus on Williams and Sharapova, it's easy to forget that former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic is a three-time semifinalist at the French Open.

    A natural on clay, Jankovic slides with ease, even on hard courts.

    In the bottom half of the draw, Jankovic faces an early challenge against Daniela Huntuchova.

Samantha Stosur

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    When Samantha Stosur is at her best, she combines her power and strength with incredible touch at the net.

    She was so good in her upset win over Serena Williams at the 2010 French Open that an ESPN reporter described her movements as cat-like.

    If that Sammy comes to play, look out.

Svetlana Kuznetsova

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    Svetlana Kuznetsova won the 2009 French Open. The two-time Grand Slam winner is often a mixed bag of raw talent and mental meltdown waiting to happen.

    Kuznetsova moved to Spain as a child and practically grew up on clay.

    If she gets hot, her experience and comfort on clay could take her deep in the tournament.

Simona Halep

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    Simona Halep is on a roll. A winner of the 2008 juniors championship at the French Open, Halep is having her best year since turning pro.

    Her run in Rome, from qualifiers to the semifinals, boosted her confidence. 

    Halep lost to No. 1 Serena Williams in the semifinals.

    Yes, she got a beat down, 3-6, 0-6. But so did Victoria Azarenka in the final. 

    After playing the best, Halep is probably prepared for the rest. 

    She faces a tricky first-round match against clay-court specialist Carla Suarez Navarro.

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