| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

Is this the year?
Ferrer looks to crack the top three at Roland Garros
David Ferrer is a Spaniard whose game is bigger than his physical size. Ferrer is currently ranked number four in the world in the ATP Men’s Singles Rankings, one spot ahead of fellow countryman Rafael Nadal. Early in his career, Ferrer was known as a clay court specialist, having won half of his 20 career titles on clay. But through the years, his results have helped him shed that label. Although he has never won a major, Ferrer has had much success at them, making the semifinals at the Australian Open and U.S. Open twice each, and was a semifinalist at last year’s French Open where he fell to Nadal 2-6, 2-6, 1-6. In late January, for the first time in his 10-plus-year career, he became the top-ranked Spaniard, overtaking Nadal for the distinction.

While Ferrer has found success on all surfaces, clay is still his strongest surface and if he is to break through and win a major, the French Open seems to be his best chance. At the 2012 French Open, Ferrer lost only 25, games defeating Lukas Lacko, Benoit Paire, Mikhail Youzhny and Marcel Granollers en route to the quarterfinals. In the quarters, he upset world number four Andy Murray and reached his first Roland Garros semifinal where he lost to Nadal.

Ferrer is playing well this year, beginning his 2013 season by successfully defending the 2013 Heineken Open title (Auckland, New Zealand), and reached the semifinals at the 2013 Australian Open for the second time in three years where he fell 2-6, 2-6, 1-6 to Novak Djokovic.

Is 2013 the year that David Ferrer finally wins a major? Nadal is the clear favorite at the French, and Djokovic is the clear second choice, but this is Ferrer's best surface, he should have a nice draw as the number four seed, and he is playing some of his best tennis ever in 2013.

2013 French Open: Facts and figures

Red dirt
The French Open is played on clay, which owes its red color to the crushed brick which forms the upper layer of the surface. There are three layers in all—one of limestone, one of clinker and one of stone—as well as drainage pipes. Clay is the slowest of surfaces and much revered by Spanish and South American players who grew up playing on red dirt and know all its secrets inside and out. The first ever clay courts were constructed in Cannes in the South of France in 1880 by Ernest and William Renshaw, who were top players back in the day. Whilst European clay courts are red, the Americans play on (quicker) green clay, with the WTA tournament in Charleston, S.C. every April being the highlight of the green clay season.

The “Sunday Start”
Ever since 2006, the tournament has been spread over 15 days, rather than 14 days and started on a Sunday. May 26 will be the opening day this year, with 32 first-round singles matches scheduled for what is called (even in French) the "Sunday Start.” The first round of singles competition stretches over three days, and one half of the draw plays on Sunday and Monday, the other half on Monday and Tuesday. As has always been the case, any player involved in matches at other tournaments on the Friday or Saturday before will not be scheduled to play before the Monday.

In the city
For the sixth year in a row, the "Roland Garros in the City" event will be set up on the esplanade outside Paris city hall throughout the French Open. The aim of this special event is to bring all the emotions of the tournament to the heart of the French capital. There will be all sorts of tennis-based activities on offer as well as a giant screen showing all the main matches from the tournament—and all free of charge, with the French Tennis Federation's main aim being to share its love of the sport with as many people as possible. This special event is organized every spring in conjunction with Paris city hall, and will culminate with the Men's Singles Final.

Way back when …
The stadium that stages one of the world's four major tennis tournaments was built in 1928, but the French men's singles championship goes back much further than that. Originally reserved for members of French clubs, it was first held on the courts of Stade Francais Club in Paris in 1891. The women's singles were added six years later, it was not until 1925 that the French Tennis Federation decided to open the event to the best foreign players. Thus, the French Internationals were born, and staged alternately at Stade Francais and Racing Club de France until the Roland-Garros stadium came into being in 1928.

2013 French Open contenders
Women’s draw
Photo credit: Kenneth B. Goldberg
Serena Williams, the current world number one is the favorite in France. If she plays her best and is on her game mentally and physically, there is no beating her. However, that is not always the case as we learned a year ago as Serena fell to Virginie Razzano of France in the first round. Certainly Serena will be looking forward to making amends for last year’s poor showing.

The defending French Open champion Maria Sharapova defeated Sara Errani in last year’s final. She is currently the world’s number two-ranked player and is playing well. She has always struggled against Serena, but if she gets a good draw, a repeat run to the Roland Garros title is certainly a strong possibility.

Victoria Azarenka was ranked number one at last year’s French Open, but she was upset in the fourth round by Dominika Cibulkova. She has fallen a bit to third in the world, but is still a strong contender to win it all.

Men’s draw
Photo credit: Kenneth B. Goldberg
Novak Djokovic has the chance to complete a Career Grand Slam by winning the French Open. He has previously won four Australian Open titles, as well as one Wimbledon and U.S. Open title each, but has never won the French Open. A year ago, he fell to Rafael Nadal in a four-set final. This year, he will look to take the next step and win it all.

Photo credit: Kenneth B. Goldberg
Rafael Nadal is the clear overall favorite to win the French Open title. Rafa has won 93 percent of his career singles matches on clay, and 52 of 53 singles matches at the French Open since 2005. In addition, Nadal holds the record for most career titles at four clay-court tournaments: Monte Carlo (eight), French Open (seven), Barcelona (seven) and Rome (six). He has won three straight French Open titles since 2010, seven of the last eight overall, and boasts a 21-match winning streak on the red clay of Paris. Plus, Rafa has never needed more than four sets to dispose of his opponent in any of his previous seven French Open finals.

2013 French Open sleepers
Women’s draw
Sloane Stephens is looking to build upon her upset win over Serena at the Australian Open. She made the fourth round of last year’s French Open before being defeated by Samantha Stosur. Currently ranked 16th in the world, Stephens is hoping that she can take another giant leap forward this year at Roland Garros.

Photo credit: Kenneth B. Goldberg
Sara Errani was a finalist at last year’s French Open, and is currently ranked seventh in the WTA Women’s Singles Rankings. Last year, she came in to the tournament ranked 21st and upset Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber and Samantha Stosur en route to the finals. The Italian plays well on the slower clay surface and is a threat to knock off any top seed again this year.

Men’s draw
Photo credit: Kenneth B. Goldberg
David Ferrer was a semifinalist a year ago at Roland Garros, defeating Andy Murray in the quarterfinals before losing to Nadal in straight sets. It's hard to call a top five player a "sleeper," but Ferrer has never won a Grand Slam and the "Big Four" have dominated the tour and specifically the Grand Slams for years. His game does fit nicely on to the red clay of Roland Garros though. Is this the year he wins a Slam?

The only Frenchman to ever win on their home turf of Roland Garros was Yannick Noah. Is this the year they have another hometown hero in Jo-Wilfred Tsonga? With four of the top 25 players being French, there is a chance. Tsonga is the best of the bunch.

2013 French Open pretenders
Women’s draw
Marion Bartoli is the top-ranked French player and comes into the 2013 French Open at 14th in the WTA Women’s Singles Rankings. Last year, she fell in the second round to Petra Martic. The weight and pressure of playing in front of her home country may once again be too much for Bartoli whose game has slipped a bit of late.

With Venus Williams, the name is there, but the game is not. While Venus has played well of late, expecting to get through six matches against top players is too much to ask. She may win a few rounds, but the 24th-ranked player will have trouble making it through to the second week.

Men’s draw
Tomas Berdych has played his best tennis in the past year, but clay isn't his best surface. He lost in the fourth round a year ago to Juan Martin del Potro in four sets. While he may win a few matches, don't expect him to live up to the sixth seed he will receive.

Big serves are great, but the slow clay will neutralize Milos Raonic’s big serves at Roland Garros. Raonic is not well-rounded enough at this point to overcome his serve not being dominant.