French Open 2015: Top Storylines to Follow at Roland Garros

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2015

French Open 2015: Top Storylines to Follow at Roland Garros

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    Novak Djokovic celebrates a win at the 2015 Rolex Masters in Monte Carlo.
    Novak Djokovic celebrates a win at the 2015 Rolex Masters in Monte Carlo.Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Although the 2015 French Open will have all the usual players, pre-tournament plot twists have created some dramatic storylines.

    Novak Djokovic hopes to win his first French Open title. Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal seeks his 10th. Those two storylines have been volleyed about so much they've almost become cliche.

    However, that's what people are talking aboutthe drama surrounding Nadal's triumphs and Djokovic's failures at Roland Garros.

    On the women's side, Serena Williams remains No. 1, but neither she nor defending champion Maria Sharapova are locks for the title. In fact, the WTA Tour has no dominant player this year. Williams, Sharapova and Simona Halep have taken turns riding the momentum wave.

    Andy Murray's wins in Madrid and Munich made him an instant contender.

    Still, the focus will be on the reigning No. 1 and the faltering "King of Clay." Those are among the top storylines to follow at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal's Baffling Clay-Court Struggles

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    Rafael Nadal during a match at the 2015 Mutua Madrid Open.
    Rafael Nadal during a match at the 2015 Mutua Madrid Open.Associated Press

    How can a nine-time winner and defending champion not be the favorite of a tournament? When he's struggling like Nadal. Bodog (h/t Odds Shark) currently lists Djokovic as a 4-5 favorite to win the French Open.

    When Nadal suffered setbacks early in the season, many brushed it off. The sentiment was, "Wait until clay-court season." Clay-court season came and concerns about the Spaniard's game mounted.

    Nadal failed to win in Barcelona, Madrid, Monte Carlo or Rome.

    It's simple for Nadal. Win it all or hear it allas in a growing chorus of critics and concerned fans.

Maria Sharapova's Clay Court Reign

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    Carla Suarez Navarro and Maria Sharapova pose during trophy ceremony of 2015 Italian Open.
    Carla Suarez Navarro and Maria Sharapova pose during trophy ceremony of 2015 Italian Open.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Although Sharapova failed to defend titles in Stuttgart and Madrid, her triumph in Rome and defending-champion status at Roland Garros make her the reigning "Queen of Clay."

    That unofficial and rotating title could slip away with an early exit. So could Sharapova's No. 2 ranking, which she just reclaimed from Halep.

Novak Djokovic Title Quest

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    Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the 2015 Italian Open.
    Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the 2015 Italian Open.Claudio Onorati/Associated Press

    Djokovic is getting what Pete Sampras never overcame and Roger Federer endured: questions about never winning the French Open.

    With eight Grand Slams, Djokovic is already in exclusive company. But he'd love to move out of that ultra-exclusive category of greatest players to never win the French Open. Federer escaped from that club in 2009.

    Djokovic wants to avoid a lifetime membership like the ones belonging to Sampras, John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg.

The Eugenie Bouchard Watch

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    Eugenie Bouchard hits a forehand during a match at the Italian Open.
    Eugenie Bouchard hits a forehand during a match at the Italian Open.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Eugenie Bouchard was just named the 2015 Most Marketable Athlete in the world by SportsPro. Now if only she could parlay her marketability into some consistency.

    Bouchard is having an off year that could take a turn for the worse if she's knocked out of the French Open early. She reached the semifinals last year.

    Yes, having what Madison Avenue deems "marketable" looks will garner endorsements. However, it doesn't take a marketing degree to understand that no company wants to be associated with losing. If Bouchard wants to bank on endorsements, she needs to get back to her winning ways.

Which Serena Williams Will Show Up?

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    Serena Williams during her first-round match at the Italian Open.
    Serena Williams during her first-round match at the Italian Open.Riccardo De Luca/Associated Press

    In a Rolling Stone interview, Serena Williams once described herself as having "multiple personalities."

    We've seen at least three Serenas this season. There is the confident world-beater who arrived in Melbourne to dominate the Australian Open. Then there is the uneven Williams who struggled to find her rhythm at Indian Wells and during Fed Cup play. Another Serena, the injury-prone one, has made a few troublesome appearances this year.

    Which Serena will arrive at Roland Garros?

    An ultra-healthy and focused Williams is unstoppable. Even an under-the-weather Serena can win a Slam.

Who Wore What?

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    Tomas Berdych hits a backhand during a match at the 2014 French Open.
    Tomas Berdych hits a backhand during a match at the 2014 French Open.Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

    It's only fitting that red clay at Roland Garros serves as a colorful canvas for one of Paris' biggest fashion shows: the French Open.

    Who is wearing what will be a hot topic. Ana Ivanovic is already creating buzz over her Yohji Yamamoto-designed Adidas outfit. In a sneak-peak picture, the kit looks like something Bethanie Mattek-Sands might wear.

    These days, the men are turning as many heads as the women. Leading the way is Tomas Berdych, who took to the courts in a floral number last year.

    What will Berdcyh come up with this year? Whatever he wears, people will be talking about it.

No Roof or Renovations at Roland Garros

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    The grounds crew works on a rain-soaked court at Roland Garros during the 2014 French Open.
    The grounds crew works on a rain-soaked court at Roland Garros during the 2014 French Open.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Plans to install a retractable roof at Roland Garros were postponed due to a court battle over environmental concerns. If the tournament has to endure more than a day's worth of rain delays, expect the storyline to take center stage.

    Two years ago, French Open officials unveiled plans for a $440 million renovation project that included a retractable roof over the Court Philippe Chartrier. The project was expected to begin this year and be completed by 2017.

    However, the Paris city council postponed plans to begin construction until a land-use study can be completed. Area residents and environmental groups raised concerns about the impact of renovations on the botanical gardens at Roland Garros.

    Roland Garros is the smallest venue of the four Grand Slams. French Open officials fear the failure to expand at Roland Garros might lead to the Slam being relocated to another country.

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