Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz all were placed in the same half of the French Open men’s bracket in Thursday’s draw for the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.
Djokovic, who is the defending champion and seeded No. 1, could meet 13-time champion Nadal in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. Djokovic beat Nadal in the semifinals a year ago.
“I am very motivated to play my best tennis,” Djokovic said in French on Thursday, as he marked his chance to get back on the Grand Slam stage after missing the Australian Open because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 (the French Open has no such requirement).
“Last year in Paris was the perfect result. Roland Garros was maybe the hardest of my career — of all the Grand Slams I have won,” he said. “Very emotional, tiring, but at the end, the result arrived.”
Nadal leads the Grand Slam title standings among men with 21, one ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.
If that Djokovic-Nadal showdown happens, the winner could face No. 6 seed Alcaraz in the semifinals. Alcaraz is just 19, recently won the Madrid Open on clay and became the youngest man to break into the top 10 in the rankings since Nadal in 2005.
Alcaraz could meet No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev in quarterfinals.
The potential quarterfinals on the other half of the bracket are No. 2 Daniil Medvedev against No. 7 Andrey Rublev in a matchup between two Russians who will not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon because of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, and 2021 runner-up Stefano Tsitsipas against No. 8 Casper Ruud.
Naomi Osaka gets rematch on return to Roland Garros
Naomi Osaka will not have the luxury of easing into her return to the courts of the French Open, facing a tough foe in her very first match.
Thursday’s draw also set up two tantalizing possibilities in the fourth round for No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek, the 2020 champion who is currently on a 28-match winning streak. She might need to go up against 2018 champion Simona Halep at that stage or 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko — who just so happens to be the last woman to defeat Swiatek.
Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam champion who used to be No. 1 in the rankings but has slipped to No. 38 in part because of a lack of activity. That included time off for a mental health break after she withdrew from Roland Garros ahead of her second-round match last year, revealing that she has dealt with anxiety and depression.
Because she is not seeded at the French Open, she was not safe from facing a seeded opponent right away, so that’s what will happen against No. 27 Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American who was a 2019 semifinalist in Paris.
Anisimova won their third-round encounter at the Australian Open in January by a score of 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5). Osaka was the defending champion at Melbourne Park.
The possible women’s quarterfinals in Paris are Swiatek against two-time major runner-up Karolina Pliskova, and No. 3 seed Paula Badosa against No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka on the top half of the field, and defending champion Barbora Krejcikova against No. 5 Anett Kontaveit, and No. 4 Maria Sakkari against No. 6 Ons Jabeur on the bottom half.
Last year, in her first time in the main draw of singles at the French Open, Krejcikova won both that trophy — the player she beat in the final, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, announced this week her season is done because of an injured knee — along with women's doubles.
So it makes sense that Krejcikova used phrases such as “extremely amazing” and “something incredible" while discussing what happened in 2021 during a brief appearance at the draw ceremony and noted with a smile: “This clay suits me.”
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