In the long storied history of the French Open, few men or women has been more successful on the red clay of Roland Garros than Chris Evert. She holds a record nine French Open titles: seven singles championships and two in doubles. Evert's 94-15 record at the French Open is the best winning percentage in the history of the event.
This week, Evert will be covering the French Open for ESPN, and springtime in Paris has always been special for the woman the media dubbed "The Queen of Clay." I spoke with her about the 2013 Women's draw and who might take the title.
Serena Williams has played well as of late. Is she the favorite?
Evert » "It has been 11 years since she has won here, so I think it's long overdue, her second French Open win. She has improved tremendously on the clay. We talk about how she's improved her game. But in my mind, I'm impressed with how consistent she's become and how patient she's become and how she's harnessing that power to be not only an effective clay-court player but a tremendous clay-court player. I think she will win her second French Open, yes."
Who will challenge her?
"You can never rule out Maria Sharapova. After all, she is the defending champion, so she is worthy of consideration. Then you have Victoria Azarenka, who over the years has given Serena fits on clay. They really are the two who figure to give her the biggest challenge."
How can you beat Serena on clay?
"I don't think it's going to take a player to overpower her. First of all, I don't think anybody out there can overpower her. The thing that we have to remember is this is still Serena's weakest surface. Let's not lose sight of that. She likes to go for her shots. This is where she's transformed herself into a better clay-court player.
"If there was a player that came out of the blue that was crafty, had a great drop shot, had some great short angling to get her off the baseline, bring her up to the net, I think that's the only chance that anybody has to beat her.
"But now that I think of it, that could be Li Na. She has won a French Open [in 2011] and she plays that type of game I just mapped out against Serena. That said, I still think we will see Serena holding the French Open trophy in two weeks."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.