It's the widest French Open everApril 19, 2017

The spring clay-court season officially started with the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters underway while the Stuttgart Open, a Premier tournament, would be held the following week. The French Open culminates the month-long season, and the 116th edition of this second Grand Slam tournament is probably the widest ever. Anyone can win it.

The history of the French Open reveals the unpredictability of this tennis tournament. There are no tiebreakers in the fifth (and deciding) set, and the slow-playing surface makes it the most physically demanding event in the sport. The Spanish players fancy their chances in the red dirt, and Rafael Nadal would be unbeatable on this surface for many years. However, the results these last few years could surprise fans. (Dominika Cibulková, one of the shortest players on the tour, won the most WTA titles last season.) And the first quarter of this year couldn't be scripted better.

Roger Federer won the three biggest tournaments of the first quarter of the year, but he would skip the spring clay-court season. He should make his return in Stade Roland Garros, which may be a double-edged sword. If he reaches the second week, then there may be a possibility that it could affect his form during the grass-court season. Then again, Rod Laver noted that Federer was playing the best in his storied career. The same thing should be said of Serena Wiliams, who haven't stepped on the court since winning her 23rd major singles title in Melbourne. It would be foolish to write off her chances of advancing to her third straight finals in Roland Garros, but one player had her number.

Let's look at what might become of the French Open:

Garbiñe Muguruza and Maria Sharapova will face off in the finals unless the organisers will place them on the same half of the draw. The Spaniard beat the American twice in Roland Garros including a straight-set win in the finals last year. The slump that followed Muguruza's breakthrough season won't be a factor next month, so it wouldn't be hard to imagine her making that far again. Sharapova, on the other hand, have high motivation for coming back. Many players didn't like the wildcards being granted on her. A sixth major title should give the Russian the last laugh, but it won't be for long. Sharapova's serve wasn't lethal as it was before her shoulder injury.

The Big Four won't rule Roland Garros. Not a few fans will like someone other than Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires. Dominic Thiem had a breakthrough two seasons ago, where most of his victories happened in clay. His lack of experience in dealing with rain delay cost his chances of advancing to his first Grand Slam finals last year. (Djokovic didn't have any trouble with Thiem in their semifinal match.) Borna Ćorić, on the other hand, won his first singles title on the clay courts in Casablanca. It should make him one of the favourites in the Next Generation ATP Finals later this year, but the 20-year old Croatian must be feeling good on clay.

Watch out for Sam Stosur. The native of Brisbane is the 2011 US Open champion, but she would have more success in the French Open. (She was runner-up in 2010, also a semifinalist in 2009, 2012, and 2016.) She lost to eventual champion Muguruza last year, which was a very good result nonetheless. At 33 years of age, Stosur would show flashes of her old (winning) form. You can call her a dark horse.

How about Nick Kyrgios? He'll make his clay-court debut in Estoril. You can count him as one of the favourites in the Mutua Madrid Open. Luck might give him better results in Paris.

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