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Ten storylines to follow at Roland Garros 2014

Roland Garros Day 1.
by Mark Hodgkinson
Friday 23 May 2014

The French Open, the year's second Grand Slam, begins on Sunday. Wimbledon.com points out 10 storylines to keep track of as all eyes turn to Roland Garros...

1. Even someone who has won eight titles from nine previous visits to Roland Garros, and who is regarded as the greatest clay-court player of all time, can be brought down by self-doubt. And the doubt in Rafa Nadal's mind has spread through tennis - has there ever been such uncertainty over the Majorcan's prospects in Paris? Only once during this European clay-court swing has Nadal chewed on a trophy for photographers, and he was fortunate in the Madrid final with Japan's Kei Nishikori - who had earlier led by a set and break - retiring because of injury. As Nadal says, only the stupid and the arrogant don't doubt themselves. But can he regain some of that self-belief? If he does, Nadal will be on the way to winning a fifth successive title at the clay-court slam.

2. In contrast with Nadal's domination of the men's competition, the women's tournament has produced seven different winners over the last seven years. You have to go back to Justine Henin, the champion from 2005-7, for the last woman to retain La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. There's a decent chance that will change this year with Serena Williams strongly favoured to go through the draw-sheet again. One great motivation for Williams in Paris will be history and the opportunity to draw level with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 Grand Slam titles. 

3. If Novak Djokovic can win the French Open for the first time, it wouldn't just complete his career Grand Slam - he would become the third member of this generation to win all majors at least once each - but would also validate his decision to hire Boris Becker as his coach. Djokovic couldn't have had a more encouraging preparation for Paris than beating Nadal in the Rome final.  

4. The French Open will be the first post-Lendl slam of Andy Murray's tennis life; many on the tennis beat will be looking for clues in the Wimbledon champion's play in Paris about how he might perform when he returns to the All England Club in late June. There's no doubt that Murray's performance in the quarter-finals of Rome, where he troubled Nadal, was promising. 

5. Can Maria Sharapova defeat Serena Williams for the first time in 10 years? Sharapova had some fine results during this year's European clay-court swing, winning titles in Stuttgart and Madrid, and the last couple of years in Paris, she has featured on the second Saturday, winning the title in 2012 and finishing as the runner-up to Williams last season. This year, the Russian is projected to meet the American in the quarter-finals. Who will go deeper into their respective draws, Sharapova or her boyfriend, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov? 

6. Roger Federer has already won Grand Slams as a father – he did so at the 2010 Australian Open and the 2012 Wimbledon Championships. But that was as a father of two. In Paris this spring, Federer is attempting to accomplish a first in this sport, winning a major just weeks after his wife Mirka gave birth to a second set of twins, and he became a father of four. 

7. Ana Ivanovic has been playing some accomplished tennis of late - she reached a final in Stuttgart, as well as the quarter-finals in Madrid, and the semi-finals in Rome - and it's going to be intriguing to see how she fares at the Grand Slam she won in 2008. 

8. While Li Na's results on clay so far this season have been less than extraordinary - she lost in the quarter-finals of both the Madrid and Rome tournaments - it's certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that the Australian Open champion could win her second major of the season. One coach on the women's tour has noted how "happy" the Chinese - who won her first Grand Slam at the 2011 French Open - has been looking of late. 

9. If Nishikori is in good physical shape in Paris - after his back problem in Madrid, he wisely withdrew from Rome - he could be a great inconvenience to others. 

10. Paris welcomes a new Wawrinka. Not only is he a 'Stan' and not a 'Stanislas' now in the ATP’s rankings, but the Australian Open champion is playing his first major as a Grand Slam champion. Which of the two Swiss men, Wawrinka and Federer, will have a more successful French Open? 

Follow the French Open live on ITV and at rolandgarros.com

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