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Wednesday, Sep 23rd

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The second Grand Slam of the year, the French Open, got off to a wet start with only 5 seeds able to complete their matches on Day 1 at Roland Garros. As a result there were also no upsets on the opening day, though 10th seed Petra Kvitova flirted with disaster briefly before scrapping past 21 year old Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in a match that lasted more than 2 hours.

Kvitova, wearing a gorgeous blue ensemble, looked to be on the verge of crashing out when Kovinic served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but Kvitova rattled off 7 straight points and won three games on the trot to book her place in the second round.

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nadal_champFalling to his back at the end of it all, Rafael Nadal confirmed yet again his status as the King of Clay claiming a record 8th championship at Roland Garros – the first man in history to do so at the slams. The 3rd seed was the prohibitive favourite coming in to the final and defeated compatriot David Ferrer in straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. It was scoreline that in some ways belied the fight that Ferrer put up but Nadal was too often the stronger player and the gutsy Ferrer often faltered at the big moments in his first appearance at a slam final. This was Nadal’s 4th straight championships here in Paris, his second such streak having triumphed here between 2005 and 2008 before being famously upset in 2009 by Robin Soderling. That remains his only loss on the red clay here as he became the “winningest” player with 59 wins moving ahead of the great Roger Federer.

Nadal was understandably pleased with his triumph and thanked his family, team and his fans for their support. He recalled the difficult layoff period but was thrilled to return to Roland Garros and achieve this 8th championship which was unimaginable to him. He gave credit to Ferrer too, for making his first slam final. Ferrer repaid the compliment calling Nadal the 'best'. He was happy to have made his first final and stated that he would all he could to come back next year.

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maria_sharapova_7In the first of the two women's semi-finals, defending champion Maria Sharapova took on first time French Open semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka. The Azarenka-Sharapova rivalry is one of the more competitive and hard fought ones in women’s tennis over the past couple of years. 2012 was the breakout year in this rivalry and the two ladies have met 6 times since. Azarenka got the better of her Russian opponent 4 of those times to improve the career head to head to 7-5 in her favour.

Coming in to this year’s edition of the French Open, the odds were more or less evenly split with the slight edge going to Sharapova as a result of her improved clay court game and 2012 win at the French Open.

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Seven time champion Rafael Nadal was made to work hard for his opening round win at the French Open today as he was pushed into a corner and forced to battle back against 25 year old German Daniel Brands.

Nadal lost the opening set 6-4 on the back of some outstanding tennis from the 6 foot 5 inch German, who was barely conceding a point on serve in the early exchanges. The second set went down to a tiebreak, in which Nadal was trailing 3-0 early on before rattling off 7 of the next 8 points to bring the match back on level terms.

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Milos Raonic was the lone Canadian in action on Sunday, the first day of main draw play at the 2013 edition of Roland Garros, taking on Belgium’s Xavier Malisse.

Raonic enjoyed a great start to the match, completely dominating his opponent in the first two sets. Malisse offered more resistance in the third and fourth sets, but Raonic managed to come away with a 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win to reach the second round.

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The men’s draw this year was bound to revolve around two men. The King of Clay returned to the grand slams for the first time since being unceremoniously dumped out of Wimbledon while the world. No.1 renews his bid at the one major that eludes him. However due to Rafael Nadal’s long time out, the two favourites would not automatically fall in opposite sections and was undoubtedly the most anticipated outcome of today’s draw. As it turned out, Rafa was drawn in Djokovic’s half leaving us awaiting a mouthwatering clash in the semifinal.

This has also given the other contenders a new lease of life especially with the withdrawal of Murray. Roger Federer is the biggest beneficiary as his section is clear of fellow Big Four members giving him a real shot at his 6th final on the red clay. The main nearly-men waiting to make their breakthroughs include the ever present Ferrer, the dangerous Berdych and the charismatic Tsonga while waiting in the wings are outsiders Jerzy Janowicz and Benoit Paire among others. Let’s then delve into the draw to glean what we can about how things might just pan out over the next 15 days at Roland Garros

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Who can stop Serena Williams from capturing her second French Open crown is the question on everyone’s lips when it comes to the women’s draw. Such is the American’s dominance over her major rivals that her relative lack of success at this particular major underlined by a shocking first round exit last year, is largely being ignored. So can Sharapova defend her crown or can Azarenka overcome her pitfalls on the clay? Or will a darkhorse in the form of Kvitova, Li Na or Stosur come through for a fairytale finish? Let’s examine these scenarios by digging deep into the draw using that well known approach - bracketology

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