PARIS, MAY 27 -- Will the real men please step forward?
When the French Open begins Monday, the women's battle line clearly will have been drawn: on one side, top-seeded Steffi Graf; on the other, No. 2 Monica Seles, who beat the West German last week in the German Open final.
There is no clear-cut favorite among the men, making this one of the most unpredictable French Opens in years.
"There are about ten very good clay-court players right now," said top-seeded Stefan Edberg, runner-up last year to Michael Chang. "It's very open."
Edberg, a serve-and-volleyer at his best on fast surfaces, has not been impressive on clay this year. Second-seeded Boris Becker never has won a title on clay.
"I think he'll go far at Roland Garros, but I don't see him winning," Edberg said of Becker. "He'll have a lot of trouble when he runs into the real clay-court specialists."
Those include third-seeded Andre Agassi, No. 4 Andres Gomez, No. 6 Emilio Sanchez, No. 7 Thomas Muster and No. 8 Andrei Chesnokov.
Muster looked strong in winning the Italian Open, the main warm-up to the French, but he has been bothered by an arm injury that could hamper his topspin ground strokes.
"Everbody's been beating everybody," said Gomez, who fell to Muster in the Italian semifinals. "Anybody could win this year."
The favorite would have been three-time champion Ivan Lendl, but he's concentrating on Wimbledon. Mats Wilander, another three-time winner here, is taking a break from tennis. And John McEnroe is injured.
Put a question mark next to Chang, who last year became the youngest male winner of a Grand Slam tournament. He suffered a hip injury in December and has won just two of seven matches this year.
"I think winning the French Open last year was premature," he said after losing in the first round of the Italian. "It's one of those things you wonder if it really happened or if it wasn't a bedtime story."
The women have a perfect script waiting to be carried out. Graf, who won the first Grand Slam event this year -- the Australian Open -- is seeking to recapture the title she lost to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in last year's final.
But Seles may be the main challenge this time; the 16-year-old slugs the ball harder than any woman in the sport. She snapped Graf's 66-match winning streak in the German Open final for her fifth straight title.
If the seedings hold, Seles would play No. 3 Sanchez Vicario in the semifinals. But the defending champion first may have to get past 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati.
No. 2-ranked Martina Navratilova is skipping the French to prepare for Wimbledon.
TODAY'S FEATURED MATCHES
Steffi Graf (1), West Germany, vs. Pascale Paradis, France; Henri Leconte, France, vs. Ronald Agenor, Haiti; Yannick Noah, France, vs. Francisco Clavet, Spain. Court 1
Michael Chang (11), Placentia, Calif., vs. Cassio Motta, Brazil; Gabriela Sabatini (4), Argentina, vs. Andrea Vieira, Brazil; Jay Berger (9), Plantation, Fla., vs. Alberto Mancini, Argentina. Court 2
Andre Agassi (3), Las Vegas, vs. Martin Wostenholme, Canada. Court 11
Emilio Sanchez (6), Spain, vs. Niclas Kulti, Sweden.