Found May 25, 2013 on In the Tramlines:
Entering the first Major of the year, the Australian Open, many people assumed Serena Williams would run through the draw en route to yet another Major Championship. However, much to the surprise of everyone, fellow American Sloane Stephens took out Williams. Since that match, Serena has gone undefeated and has put together a few impressive performances on clay, perhaps her worst surface. This is just one of the many storylines as the eyes of tennis fans all over the world are on Roland Garros, the site of the French Open. The following is a quarter-by-quarter preview of the 2013 French Open for the women. Quarter 1 Favorite: Serena Williams [1] Contender: Angelique Kerber [8] Darkhorses: Caroline Wozniacki [10], Varvara Lepchenko [29], Laura Robson The only significance of this quarter of the draw is that it is the first group of players that Serena Williams has to get through in order to win just her second French Open Championship. After a stunning first-round loss to Virginie Razzano of France in last year's French Open, Williams is determined to make some more happy memories in Paris, one of her favorite cities in the world. Her first round opponent this year, Anna Tatishvili, should not give her a lot of trouble. Her first seeded opponent would be Sorana Cirstea, who she could face in the third round. In general, Williams should not really be tested until the quarterfinals, when a possible match with Angelique Kerber looms. As tough as Kerber can be on some surfaces, she struggles on clay and has not had a great year. Meanwhile, Wozniacki, the former World No. 1, has lost four consecutive first-round matches on clay and plays the rising British star Laura Robson in the opening round. Watch out for Robson to take care of business against Caroline and make a deep run in this quarter. Besides Williams, there are two other Americans in this quarter, Varvara Lepchenko and Christina McHale. Both have winnable first-round matches but could have a hard time making deep runs in this year's tournament. Overall, this draw will not be the most competitive but could feature some interesting match-ups. Quarter 2 Favorite: Sara Errani [5] Contenders: Agnieszka Radwanska [4], Ana Ivanovic [14] Darkhorse: Venus Williams [30] This quarter of the draw is perhaps the most intriguing of the four. Sara Errani, the surprise French Open Finalist last year, has maintained a high level of play over the course of the past year and has a great chance of making another run this year. Meanwhile, Radwanska, who almost shocked the world by taking Serena Williams to the brink in last year's Wimbledon Final, is more than capable of winning several matches in Paris. The two other seeded players to watch for in this quarter are Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams. Ivanovic is a former French Open Champion and has played some good tennis over the course of the past month on clay, by far her best surface. Williams, meanwhile, has not been playing a lot recently but is always someone to look out for at Majors because of her experience and competitive nature. Besides Williams, three Americans are in this quarter: Mallory Burdette, Madison Keys, and Shelby Rogers. Out of these three, the 18 year-old Keys is the one to watch. She can really hit the ball and could face the No. 11 seed Nadia Petrova in the second round. When all the play is done in this quarter of the draw, expect Errani to be the last one standing because of her experience and how comfortable she is on the red dirt. Quarter 3 Favorite: Victoria Azarenka [3] Contenders: Li Na [6], Maria Kirilenko [12], Marion Bartoli [13] Darkhorse: Yaroslava Shvedova [27] This particular of the draw is very top heavy, with each of the top four seeded players (Azarenka, Li, Kirilenko, and Bartoli) possessing a legitimate chance of making it to the semifinals. Azarenka is the obvious choice, having won a few Majors and being one of the best players in the world. Li Na, a former champion at Roland Garros, has a game that is very effective on clay and could give Azarenka trouble if they meet in the quarterfinal round. Kirilenko and Bartoli are both very skilled players who are capable of hanging with the best in the world. Shvedova is definitely the woman to keep an eye on in this quarter because of her knack for pulling off upsets. While her game is more suitable for grass, not clay, she can still make some noise. The Americans in this quarter are: Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Coco Vandeweghe. Do not expect either to get very far in this quarter. One other young player to watch in this quarter who I am a big fan of is the "other" young British star, Heather Watson. While she receives a lot less press than Robson, the 21 year-old could be a star in the making and has a very reasonable draw. While every seeded player in this quarter has reason to believe they can make it to the semfinals, I expect Azarenka to be the last one standing, advancing to yet another Major Semifinal. Quarter 4 Favorite: Maria Sharapova [2] Contenders: Petra Kvitova [7], Samantha Stosur [9], Sloane Stephens [17] Darkhorses: Tamira Paszek [28]. Jelena Jankovic [18] While a few years ago most people would consider this quarter of the draw wide-open, it has now become pretty clear that it is Maria Sharapova and then everyone else. She has really established herself as the second-best player in the world and her victory in Paris last year proved to everyone that she is a woman for all surfaces. While Kvitova's power game is more suited for grass and hard courts, she is always a force to be reckoned with at Majors. Stosur, meanwhile, has played in two French Open Finals and is very comfortable on clay. Look for her to make quite a run this year at Roland Garros. Sloane Stephens, in my opinion, is the real one to watch in this quarter. She had her Major breakthrough in Australia earlier this year and could be the next big star of women's tennis in America. Paszek and Jankovic are both experienced veterans and are capable of delivering an upset or two. Other than Stephens, a handful of Americans are in this quarter including Jamie Hampton, Lauren Davis, Vania King, and Melanie Oudin. They are definitely worth watching but could have a lot of trouble making a deep runs. Another young player to watch is the Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. She just played in her first ever WTA Semifinal and has a very bright future. When all is said and done in this quarter, Sharapova will be the one to advance. Semifinals: Serena Williams d. Sara Errani, Maria Sharapova d. Victoria Azarenka Final: Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova This year's French Open should be a great one. Be sure to tune in starting tomorrow morning at 5:00 AM Eastern Standard Time on ESPN2.    
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