It's time for the annual battle to see who is the best on Paris' famous terre battue, aka the red clay of the French Open. This year's women's draw could be the showcase for some established stars as well as some newcomers. Here's what you need to know:
Slam or slammed
Caroline Wozniacki is the world No. 1 women's player -- the WTA Tour ranking computer says so and it doesn't lie. The Dane, however, would legitimize her ranking with a Grand Slam title. Wozniacki's best Grand Slam showing was reaching the 2009 U.S. Open final. She was a quarterfinalist at the French last year, but her 2011 clay-court season has not been stellar. After winning on green clay at Charleston, she went on to lose in consecutive weeks to Germany's Julia Goerges in the Stuttgart final, in the round of 16 in Madrid, and to Maria Sharapova in the Italian Open semifinal. That said, Wozniacki defeated reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the Brussels Open semifinal to face China's Peng Shuai in Saturday's final.
On paper, Kim Clijsters would appear to be the front-runner going into the French Open. She's the reigning two-time U.S. Open champion and 2011 Australian Open titlist. She's happy playing on clay and has appeared in two French Open finals (2001 and 2003). She'll arrive in Paris without playing any tuneup tournaments because she injured her right ankle dancing at a cousin's wedding in April. Short on matches or not, if Clijsters is in the draw, she's a natural to win the title. However, this year's French Open field seems wide open for the player with the gumption to step up and take the title.
Maria Sharapova isn't a fan of gallivanting around on the slippery clay. Her best French Open result was reaching the 2007 semifinals. Sharapova's impressive victory in Rome, beating Sam Stosur in the final and Wozniacki in the semifinal, finds her on the list of potential French Open champions.
All eyes will be on defending champion Schiavone and 2010 finalist Stosur to see if they can rekindle last year's French Open magic. Schiavone, who frustrates opponents with her angles and spins, was a surprise champion when she became the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam title. The bad news for Schiavone is that she's had a lackluster 2011 clay-court season. Stosur's heavy topspin shots and kick serve are dangerous on clay. She showed off both by reaching the Italian Open final last week.
Sans les soeurs
Yes, Serena and Venus Williams remain sidelined for this French Open, but their absence makes them a hot topic of conversation. Due to some serious health issues, Serena hasn't played since winning the 2010 Wimbledon title. She's had two foot surgeries after cutting the top of her right foot on glass last summer. She suffered a pulmonary embolism in March, and developed a hematoma following treatment for that blood clot. Venus has been dealing with a right-hip injury since retiring from her Australian Open third-round match in January. Inquiring minds want to know when the sisters will play again, and whether they will return to the top of the ranking charts.