PARIS, France - Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci arrive in Paris for the defense of their French Open doubles title as top seeds, joint World No.1s and with the year's first major, the Australian Open, already safely locked away in their bulging trophy cabinet.
But, while the Italians start as favorites, there has been enough evidence during the clay court season to suggest that they will not have things all their own way over the coming fortnight.
For starters, Errani and Vinci, who dominated on the clay 12 months ago, have played sparingly this time around, finishing as runners-up to Peng Shuai and Hsieh Su-Wei in their only tournament, in Rome. Peng and Hsieh are one of nine different teams to have lifted silverware on the dirt, a list that, intriguingly, does not include any of the WTA's more established partnerships.
Errani and Vinci open up their defense against Spaniards Lourdes Domínguez Lino and Garbiñe Muguruza, and on paper, at least, should have a relatively smooth passage through to the quarterfinals. Here, though, things become somewhat trickier as they could well run into two-time champions Serena and Venus Williams, should the sisters successfully rekindle their magic in just their second tournament of 2013.
The other quarterfinal in the top half is likely to pair No.3 seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza, although Australian Open runners-up Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua and recent Madrid champions Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Lucie Safarova are also in the mix.
Hlavackova and Hradecka, the 2011 champions, enter this year's tournament with a 5-7 win-loss record and are unlikely to be looking too far ahead. Should they clear the first few hurdles, Liezel Huber and María José Martínez Sánchez, Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke, and No.4 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina could all potentially lie in wait.
The draw begins on Wednesday, with the final scheduled to take place a week on Sunday.