Four months after Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka captured major titles at the Australian Open, Grand Slam tennis is back. The world's best players have arrived to the red clay of Roland Garros for the 2013 French Open.
Rafael Nadal, who's won the event seven times, and Maria Sharapova return to defend their 2012 championships. Nadal missed seven months due to a left knee injury after last year's triumph, but he has returned in time for his best Grand Slam tournament.
As always, there's a strong group of contenders hoping to take them down.
Let's check out all the key information for the clay-court action, followed by previews and predictions for both draws.
Where: Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France
When: Sunday, May 26 – Sunday, June 9
Watch: NBC, ESPN2 and Tennis Channel
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
|Sunday, May 26||5 a.m.-10 a.m.||First Round||ESPN2|
|Sunday, May 26||10 a.m.-7 p.m.||First Round||Tennis|
|Sunday, May 26||12 p.m.-3 p.m.||First Round||NBC|
|Monday, May 27||5 a.m.-10 a.m.||First Round||ESPN2|
|Monday, May 27||10 a.m.-7 p.m.||First Round||Tennis|
|Monday, May 27||12 p.m.-3 p.m.||First Round||NBC|
|Tuesday, May 28||5 a.m.-10 a.m.||First Round||ESPN2|
|Tuesday, May 28||10 a.m.-7 p.m.||First Round||Tennis|
|Wednesday, May 29||5 a.m.-10 a.m.||Second Round||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, May 29||10 a.m.-7 p.m.||Second Round||Tennis|
|Thursday, May 30||5 a.m.-10 a.m.||Second Round||ESPN2|
|Thursday, May 30||10 a.m.-7 p.m.||Second Round||Tennis|
|Friday, May 31||5 a.m.-10 a.m.||Third Round||ESPN2|
|Friday, May 31||10 a.m.-7 p.m.||Third Round||Tennis|
|Saturday, June 1||5 a.m.-12 p.m. ||Third Round||Tennis|
|Saturday, June 1||12 p.m.-3 p.m.||Third Round||NBC|
|Sunday, June 2||5 a.m.-1 p.m.||Round of 16||Tennis|
|Sunday, June 2||1 p.m.-4 p.m.||Round of 16||NBC|
|Monday, June 3||5 a.m.-10 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2|
|Monday, June 3||10 a.m.-7 p.m.||Round of 16||Tennis|
|Tuesday, June 4||8 a.m.-1 p.m.||Quarterfinals||Tennis|
|Tuesday, June 4||1 p.m.-7 p.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, June 5||8 a.m.-1 p.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Thursday, June 6||9 a.m.-2 p.m.||Women's Semifinals||ESPN2|
|Thursday, June 6||11 a.m.-2 p.m.||Women's Semifinals||NBC|
|Friday, June 7||7 a.m.-11 a.m.||Men's Semifinals||Tennis|
|Friday, June 7||11 a.m.-2 p.m.||Men's Semifinals||NBC|
|Saturday, June 8||9 a.m.-12 p.m.||Women's Final||NBC|
|Sunday, June 9||9 a.m.-2 p.m.||Men's Final||NBC|
Schedule courtesy of Tennis.com.
Men's Draw Preview
When Nadal was preparing for his return, it was unclear how effective he would be. After all, he hadn't played since Wimbledon, missing two majors and the Olympics. It wouldn't have been a surprise if it took him some time to round into top form.
Instead, he's posted a 36-2 record and won six of eight tournaments. When you combine that success with the Spanish star's unmatched track record at the French Open, he's the prohibitive favorite.
Nadal and the rest of the field caught a break when it was announced Andy Murray would be forced to miss the event. Although the French Open isn't Murray's best event, removing one of the top players in the world from contention helps the 26-year-old Spaniard.
BBC Tennis @bbctennis
Murray pulls out of French Open.5/21/2013, 9:18:12 PM
That leaves Djokovic and Federer as the biggest threats to Nadal. Djokovic was drawn onto the same side, which means a potential semifinal looms large. Federer has a more promising draw and could very well be waiting in the final.
As for sleepers capable of making deep runs, keep an eye on Juan Monaco and Grigor Dimitrov. Monaco always excels on clay, while Dimitrov is finally showing signs of reaching his sky-high potential.
In the end, however, Nadal is the man to beat at the French.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal
Women's Draw Preview
The main focus on the women's side will be one two players: Maria Sharapova, who showed improvement movement en route to the title last year, and Serena Williams, who enters the tournament on a 24-match winning streak.
Neither player has had a great amount of success in Paris, though. Prior to last year, Sharapova reached the semifinals just twice in nine years. Williams hasn't made the semifinals since 2003 and was eliminated in the first round last year.
So it's not a foregone conclusion that one of them will win the tournament. Look out for Li Na. The 2011 French Open champion is back in fine form. She reached the Australian Open final, something she also did before winning the French title two years ago.
Other top contenders include Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and 2012 finalist Sara Errani. Aside from Williams, who isn't at her best on clay, there isn't a dominant player on the women's side.
In terms of long shots, don't forget about Ana Ivanovic. The 2008 French champion has gone through some rough patches ever since that triumph, but she still has the talent to make a deep run. Carla Suarez Navarro, who's 13-6 on clay this season, is another player to watch.
Prediction: Li Na
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