Tennis Players with the Most Momentum Ahead of the 2015 French Open

Will MedlockFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2015

Tennis Players with the Most Momentum Ahead of the 2015 French Open

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    Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

    As green clay gave way to red, so the Masters events step aside for the 2015 French Open. Ask any player what they'd like to take into the next few weeks and the answer will be resounding: momentum.

    Maria Sharapova reached the semi-finals in Madrid and has followed it up with the title in Rome. The world No. 3 has hit form at the right time with the lure of Roland Garros now so inviting.

    Novak Djokovic's self-imposed break doesn't seem to have curbed his relentless form. The Serb reached his sixth consecutive final on Saturday to tighten his grip on the game.

    The following four slides will analyse the players carrying the most momentum into the year's second Grand Slam.

Carla Suarez Navarro

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    Riccardo De Luca/Associated Press

    The wave carrying Carla Suarez Navarro has consumed every imaginable challenge on the WTA circuit in the last week. Defeat to Maria Sharapova in the Rome final won't break her belief.

    Even for a player whose stock has risen considerably in the last five months, to tame Petra Kvitova's physicality in straight sets was a bold statement by Suarez Navarro.

    The impressive win over Kvitova was sandwiched in between two more significant victories. First she stoked the fire of indifference that has frustrated Eugenie Bouchard this season, before seeing off Simona Halep in three sets.

    Prior to Madrid she reached the Miami final, beating Agnieszka Radwanska, Venus Williams and Andrea Petkovic along the way.

    The formidable presence of Serena Williams at Roland Garros makes it unlikely that Suarez Navarro could go all the way. Right now, though, there are few who could claim to be as buoyant as the woman from Gran Canaria.

Novak Djokovic

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    Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

    Momentum doesn't do justice to what Novak Djokovic is experiencing this year. 

    Even in skipping the Madrid Open, the Serb has shown that the aforementioned word is no longer applicable to him. He is feeding on something more than that.

    Rafael Nadal may be the king of clay, but Djokovic is making serious plans to dethrone him.

    In the process of breaking records and serves, the world No. 1 has secured four straight titles in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome this year. After beating Roger Federer on Monday, his grip is growing tighter.

    Thomaz Bellucci ripped into him in the third round in Rome, even taking the first set. A rattled Djokovic gave way seamlessly to his normal self. Sets of 6-2, 6-3 in his favour left Bellucci just another victim.

    Annabel Croft paid Djokovic a backhanded compliment in her Sky Sports column when she recently described him as "very machine-like." It's up to Nadal and the rest to find the off switch.

Maria Sharapova

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    Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

    You wouldn't be wrong to say that Maria Sharapova is hardly in the form of her life. Yet having reached the semi-finals of two successive tournaments, including victory in the Rome final, her doubters will be temporarily hushed.

    A final four defeat to Svetlana Kuznetsova in Madrid was actually Sharapova's best result since losing at the same stage in Acapulco in February. Still, it represented something of an upturn in fortunes.

    Losing to her first opponents in consecutive tournaments prior to Madrid would have eaten away at the fiery Russian. Her performances over the last couple of weeks have proved that.

    Sharapova was unforgiving in Rome, not dropping a set until she swept aside Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.

    Her defence of the French Open will require the same gladiatorial instinct and spirit she showed against the Roman backdrop last week.

    Simon Briggs wrote for the Telegraph in January that Sharapova's "best tennis only emerges when the need is greatest." With the French Open fast approaching, the need has never been so pronounced.

Andy Murray

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    Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

    Andy Murray's post-match verdict after beating Rafael Nadal in Madrid was "marriage works." The win secured him his second ever clay court title in as many tournaments. If it's to be a year of firsts, then life might be about to get better for Murray at Roland Garros.

    However, the Scot withdrew from the Rome Masters after beating Jeremy Chardy, citing fatigue, the foe of the overworked sportsman, as the reason.

    Murray is, though, looking better than ever. His relentless run at the end of last year showed what he can do when the pressure is on. He is enjoying a similar spell right now, with convincing wins over Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Nadal in the last month.

    Murray must feel the time is ripe to strike in Paris and win his maiden French Open. With Nadal still going through an unprecedented streaky patch on clay, a gap has opened up.

    His chances are so promising that Mike Dickson wrote for the Mail that his withdrawal from Rome could be "filed under 'precautionary.'" In other words, now is not the time for silly injuries.

    He has already taken third spot from Nadal in the rankings. Now is the moment to replace him as winner of the French Open. The timing might never be better.

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