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2015 French Open: Mild Weather to Greet Players, Spectators as Play Begins

The second major tennis tournament of the year commences this weekend, as the world's best players begin their quest for the 2015 French Open title at Roland Garros in Paris.

The tournament, which runs from May 24 to June 7, is expected to have few weather disruptions as first-round play begins.

On Sunday, it will be dry with temperatures near 21 C (70 F), slightly above average for this time of year, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel. A front will likely bring a couple of showers to the city on Monday, but the rainfall will be brief and shouldn't cause any significant delays, Samuhel said.

Accompanying the front will be cooler air, which will bring temperatures down slightly to around 17-19 C (mid-60s F) into Tuesday, Samuhel added.

What sets the French Open apart from the three other major tennis championships (Australian Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon) is the clay surface on the Roland Garros courts and the weather is expected to play a significant role in the outcome of the event, Tennis Channel Analyst and retired American tennis pro, Justin Gimelstob said.

"As we have seen in past years, the warmer conditions, lighter air, creates a dynamic where the ball moves through the air quicker and is more explosive bouncing off the surface," Gimelstob said. "The warmer, drier conditions also effects the topsoil of the court surface."

These conditions are extremely favorable to nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who relies on extreme racket head speed and excessive topspin, Gimelstob said.

Warm and dry weather allows the clay to become thinner, which makes it hard for players to get traction and keep their footing on the course. Damp and heavy conditions allow the clay to become thicker which can slow the ball down upon contacting the court surface as it picks up moisture, according to Gimelstob.

Aggressive players, such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams, would benefit from the lighter conditions, while heavier conditions favor players who can generate their own pace and produce a flatter, linear trajectory on their shots. Those players include Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova, Gimelstob said.

In 2014, a cool and unsettled start to the tournament placed a premium on defensive skills before warmer weather arrived for the later rounds.

The grounds crew at Roland Garros faces a substantial task keeping the courts ready for play each day. According to a recent Sports Illustrated article, four of the Roland Garros courts, including the Suzanne Lenglen stadium court, are built on concrete slabs, leading to dangerous conditions when it rains and making water drainage "tricky." Additionally, the clay can blow away in the wind, so the courts must be watered daily.

As the tournament progresses, the best players will likely be able to adjust to whatever variable court conditions they face.

"Obviously all great players can adjust to whatever conditions and variables they confront, but subtle differences move the margins in different directions and could very well have an outcome in which players are hoisting the French Open trophy in a few weeks' time," Gimelstob said.


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kevin Byrne at Kevin.Byrne@accuweather.com, follow him on Twitter at @Accu_Kevin. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.