Serbia's Novak Djokovic practices during a training session on the eve of the start of the 2014 French Open in Paris. Djokovic, ranked second in the world, is seeking his first title at Roland Garros. (Patrick Kovarik/AFP via Getty Images)
Top French Open contenders

Rafael Nadal

Age: 27. Birthplace: Manacor, Mallorca, Spain.

World ranking: 1. Grand Slam titles/French Open titles: 13/8.

Best shot: In his four clay-court tuneups, Nadal reached the final of just two and won only one, taking the Madrid title when Kei Nishikori retired in the third set. That would be a great streak for most players but suggests the King of Clay might be vulnerable.

Novak Djokovic

Age: 27. Birthplace: Belgrade, Serbia.

World ranking: 2. Grand Slam titles/French Open titles: 6/0.

Best shot: The game’s greatest mover has won every major except the French, falling to Nadal in the 2012 final and succumbing, 9-7, in the fifth set of their brilliant 2013 semifinal. This could be Djokovic’s year after recently toppling Nadal in the Italian Open final.

Roger Federer

Age: 32. Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland.

World ranking: 4. Grand Slam titles/French Open titles: 17/1.

Best shot: The Swiss master’s clay-court preparation was interrupted by the birth of his wife’s second set of twins. Yet few dismiss Federer’s chances even though clay isn’t his forte, with his lone French title (2009) coming the year Nadal was ousted early.


Serena Williams

Age: 32. Birthplace: Saginaw, Mich.

World ranking: 1. Grand Slam titles/French Open titles: 17/2.

Best shot: When fit and focused, Williams is peerless on court. And the game’s hardest hitter has developed a feel and fluency for clay that make her the heavy favorite to claim the 18th major title that would equal Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Li Na

Age: 32. Birthplace: Wuhan, China.

World ranking: 2. Grand Slam titles/French Open titles: 2/1.

Best shot: Li, who rivals Williams in the hard-hitting department, is enjoying a career-high ranking after claiming her second major, the Australian Open, to start the year. A knee injury limited her in April, but if fit, she knows how to win on clay.

Maria Sharapova

Age: 27. Birthplace: Nyagan, Russia.

World ranking: 8. Grand Slam titles/French Open titles: 4/1.

Best shot: Never an explosive or elegant mover, the former No. 1 has overcome her awkwardness on clay well enough to win the French in 2012 and reach the final last year. Sadly, Sharapova will likely face Williams, against whom she’s 2-16, in the quarters.

— Liz Clarke