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Roland Garros Steams Up

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Heading into the years second grand slam, things aren't as one-sided as they were last year. In 2012, Maria Sharapova won Stuttgart and Rome enroute to her only Roland Garros title. Last year, Serena Williams won all the major titles except the small event in Stuttgart in which Sharapova won again. With the someone divided nature of the tournament champions, is it possible that a new champion at Roland Garros will arise or will things of the past continue?

Serena Williams reigned supreme all throughout the clay court season, collecting titles in Charleston, Madrid, Rome, and the beloved French Open, but this year Serena lost early in Charleston, got injured in Madrid, but regained her form and won in the eternal city. It's odd to see this new version of Serena compared to the Serena of old; the Serena of old couldn't stand the clay but the Serena of now is a clay court demon. Her movement has improved, she's so much more of a patient player, and she uses the court so well. With her serve, power, and will, it's hard to imagine anyone really stopping Serena enroute to her third French Open title. But there is a major roundblock on the way to the title and it's in the form of big sister Venus. The Williams sisters are slated to combate in the third round and although on paper Serena should win, things never really go according to plan with those two.

Maria Sharapova, the 2012 champion at Roland Garros, comes in playing pretty good tennis; she too, like Serena, has become such a better clay court player as they have aged and matured. Her mobility has improved dramatically and she has always had the desire to compete and win, all major components that lead to success on the red clay of Roland Garros. With wins in Stuttgart and Madrid, one can't fathom why she wouldn't make her way to a second Roland Garros title.

Australian Open champion Li Na is playing some pretty remarkable tennis; with her win in Australia, she's become the highest ranked Chinese player in history. Li Na is a former champion at Roland Garros and the possibility of her adding a second trophy to her collection is decent. She knows what it takes to win on the red stuff and she can do it again.

Big sister Venus Williams comes into the French Open after a pretty successful start to the year; although she lost early at the Australian Open and Rome, she made the finals in AUckland and won Dubai. Venus has been playing very good tennis, but one would imagine that the once formidable Venus Williams doesn't stand too much of a chance at winning the only clay court grand slam. Her lack of consistency has always been her biggest downfall, now she has health issues and "father time" isn't on her side either. Not to mention, the tennis gods weren't too kind to the 7-time major champion as they put her on a path to a third round encouter with her sister the defending champion.

2008 champion Ana Ivanovic is playing the brand of tennis that saw her rise to the top of the game and that helped her claim her maiden grand slam trophy at Roland Garros. The powerful forehand, the heavy serve, and the joy of playing tennis are all back and such a treat to watch; when Ivanovic plays her style of game effectively, it's few that can hang with the former French Open champion on clay.

We can't forget about the rising talent from Romania, Simona Halep. Now, at a career high ranking of fourth in the world, Halep is playing some of the best tennis on tour. One would imagine that someone seeded fourth would at least make the semifinals, but coming into this tournament Halep has only won one match at Roland Garros, so one would have some reservations at possible success at the years second major for Halep, but one can be sure she'll do better this years than she has in recent years.

Petra Kvitova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dominika Cibulkova, and Carla Suarez Navarro all come in as slight underdogs, or "dark horses". Each have all played well at Roland Garros; Kvitova made the semis in 2012, Kuznetsova is a former champion, Cibulkova made the semis in 2009, and Navarro made the quarters in 2008. With all that prior success, it's not difficult to imagine any one of these ladies making a possible deep run at Roland Garros.

With the right draw, anything is possibly; you don't have to be the best player in the world, you just have to be the best on that day. It'll be amazing to see who can be the best player seven times in two weeks and become the 2014 French Open champion.

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