At the Net: Usual suspects parade into French quarters

4:44 PM, Jun 3, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If you were looking for any major surprises through the first four rounds of the French Open, then you're going to be very disappointed.

On the men's side, the "Big Three" (which is the "Big Four" minus Andy Murray, who decided to skip the year's second major) all safely landed in the quarterfinals in Paris, while the "Big Three" on the women's side -- 2002 champion Serena Williams, reigning titlist Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka -- also secured berths in the round of eight at Stade Roland Garros.

Last year's men's runner-up Novak Djokovic, 2009 winner Roger Federer and reigning three-time champ and record seven-time titlist Rafael Nadal all appear headed to the final four at the world's lone clay-court major.

The Australian Open champion, Djokovic, and Nadal could only meet in the semifinals in a rematch of the 2012 French finale, which Rafa won in four sets. And if the two greats do square off in the semis, the swashbuckling Swiss legend and reigning Wimbledon champ Federer could await the winner in the title tilt.

Note: Federer has lost to Nadal no less than four times in French Open finals.

For the ladies, it could be shaping up as a Serena-Maria final unless Azarenka can spoil that potential matchup with a hypothetical victory over Sharapova in the semis.

Note: Sharapova is attempting to become the first women's repeat winner in Paris since Justine Henin won three straight titles from 2005-07.

My guess is that Federer and Nadal, who turned 27 on Monday, will do battle in the men's final, again, while the reigning Wimbledon and U.S. Open queen Serena appears on her way to the women's championship match, where it's currently a toss-up right now between Sharapova and the reigning two-time Aussie champ Azarenka for the other spot.

The biggest upset on the men's side to this point came when fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych lost in the first round. But the big Czech did give way to oft-injured former top-10 star and heavy French favorite Gael Monfils in that one. So, a big upset it really was not.

In the women's draw, some big upsets came when former French Open champ and 2013 Aussie Open runner-up Li Na was stunned by fashion-challenged American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round and seventh-seeded former Wimbledon champ and 2012 Roland Garros semifinalist Petra Kvitova succumbed to another American, Jamie Hampton, in the third.

On the outside looking in right now at a French title among the men are fourth seed David Ferrer, sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, ninth-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka, resurgent, 35-year-old, 12th-seeded German Tommy Haas and 32nd- seeded veteran Spaniard Tommy Robredo, while on the women's side, potential championship candidates outside the "Big Three" are fourth seed Aga Radwanska, fifth-seeded, 2012 runner-up Sara Errani, 12th-seeded Russian glamour girl Maria Kirilenko, 18th-seeded, three-time semifinalist Jelena Jankovic and 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was also a French runner-up in 2006.

Note: The last time the men's French Open champ wasn't named Nadal or Federer was back in 2004 (Gaston Gaudio).

Rain was one of the big winners last week (Week 1), as inclement weather affected the schedule through the first two rounds of play. The schedule, however, righted itself before the first full weekend of action, and just tennis, fortunately, has been the order of the day since then.

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