Tennis Expert Picks - French Open
Editor's note: In selecting our picks, the "toughest road" must be by a player seeded in the top eight, and a "sleeper" is someone seeded 17th or lower.
There is a certain comfort in going with the chalk.
Most of our experts (and everybody else's) predicted back in January that Serena Williams would win the Australian Open. And then along came Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round to ruin that seemingly likely scenario.
One of our fearless prognosticators, Kamakshi Tandon, did not go along with the herd. She saw the future, and two weeks later that future was Li Na. Tandon, who has never been afraid to guess across the grain, picked Li to win and she was rewarded. Under the new, hopelessly complicated ESPN.com scoring rules for our Expert Picks, she finds herself tied for the lead with venerable Cliff Drysdale, who always seems to be at or near the top of the standings.
Kamakshi says hers is a pretty straightforward approach.
"Sometimes a player will become such an overwhelming favorite, or have been so dominant," she explains, "it seems to be heading toward a 'correction.' So I looked at the others, picked Li because she's got good results at the Australian and was playing well, and it worked out."
Picking the French Open has always been a slippery slope; clay is the biggest field-leveler of the Grand Slam surfaces. Raise your hand if you picked any of the past five women's champions: Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009), Francesca Schiavone (2010), Li Na (2011), Maria Sharapova (2012) -- or even Serena Williams to win it a year ago.
This time around, even eight-time champion Rafael Nadal doesn't look like a lock.
Nevertheless, our crew remains undaunted. After studying the draw (some to an alarming degree), these folks are ready to unveil their expert choices.