French Open: Djokovic, Nadal, Alcaraz drawn in same half

Saturday, May 21, 2022

PARIS: Defending champion Novak Djokovic, 13-time winner Rafael Nadal and new teenage star Carlos Alcaraz were drawn in the same half of the French Open on Thursday.

World number one Djokovic and Nadal, ranked five, are seeded to meet as early as the quarter-finals.

Alcaraz, 19, is bidding to become just the eighth teenager to win a Grand Slam men’s title.

He could face either Djokovic or Nadal, who holds a record 21 majors, in the semi-finals in a top-heavy draw for the second Grand Slam of the season.

“I am very motivated to play my best tennis,” said two-time French Open champion and 20-time major winner Djokovic.

“In Paris, I always play very strong. Last year, it was the toughest major that I had won.”

Djokovic had to twice come from two sets down last year to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the last-16 and Stefanos Tsitspas in the final having also beaten Nadal from a set behind in a bruising semi-final.

“Musetti, Rafa, Tsitsipas — every match lasted more than three hours. It was exhausting but I loved the outcome.”

Djokovic, who celebrates his 35th birthday on Sunday, the opening day at Roland Garros, faces 94th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in the first round.

Djokovic defeated Nishioka in straight sets in the Australian Open third round in 2020.

He will be fired up to defend his title having been deported from Melbourne in January because of his refusal to get vaccinated.

Nadal starts against Australia’s Jordan Thompson as he looks to extend his French Open record of only three defeats in 108 matches at the tournament since his title-winning debut in 2005.

Thompson, ranked at 82, made the third round in Paris in 2019 before losing to Juan Martin del Potro.

Nadal arrived at Roland Garros looking to shake off the recurrence of a long-term foot injury which saw him limp to an early defeat in Rome last week where Djokovic claimed a sixth title in the Italian capital.

The Spaniard could face 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round.

Alcaraz, who has a season-leading four titles in 2022 including Masters crowns in Miami and Madrid as well as Rio and Barcelona, begins against a qualifier.

The teenager knocked out Djokovic and Nadal on his way to victory in the Spanish capital.

Alcaraz’s potential opponent in the last 32 is Sebastian Korda who shocked him in the first round in Monte Carlo in April.

Second seed Daniil Medvedev, the US Open champion, faces Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis in his first round.

Third-ranked Alexander Zverev meets a qualifier while Tsitsipas has a tough opener against Musetti.