Ian Horne of Live-Tennis.com looks at whether Maria Sharapova can successfully defend her French Open title this Spring...
Sharapova caused a huge stir by winning the 2012 French Open title, completing a career Grand Slam in the process. The Russian famously once described herself on clay as being like a 'Cow on Ice', but that description no longer holds any relevance besides being fairly humorous and a mark of how far she has come.
Heading into the 2013 clay-court season, it looks like Sharapova could once again be a serious contender at Roland Garros. We've not been able to see her play on clay yet this season, but her recent form has netted her an Indian Wells title, a Miami runner-up finish and a return to No. 2 in the world rankings.
That said, we can expect her to pick up where she left off. Her dirt-balling form last year took her to the Rome and Stuttgart titles and her huge achievements in Paris involved anything but a flash in the pan string of victories.
A massive challenge awaits the Russian. Her rivals will include Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. Serena has once again reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the rankings and appears to be on course for another incredible season. She'll be targeting the French Open as a big chance to pick up ranking points having lost in the first round in 2012.
Azarenka also looks capable of big things. Vika has missed a few weeks of late due to injury, but her unbeaten 17-0 record for 2013 speaks for itself.
So can Sharapova win the title? We'll have to wait and see, but the early signs are encouraging. There are no concerns regarding her ability to defend the crown, but as always a lot will depend on the performances of her biggest rivals.