Fri, 01 Jul 2022

The two giants have been placed on an early collision course in Paris

Tennis titans Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal could face off in a quarterfinal showdown at the French Open after the men's draw was released for the clay court showpiece before it gets underway this weekend.

Defending champion Djokovic and 'King of Clay' Nadal are both in the same half of the draw and could clash as early as the last eight in Paris.

Djokovic was the victor when the pair met in the semifinals of last year's tournament, seeing off 13-time champion Nadal as the Serb went on to claim his second title on the hallowed red dirt of the French capital.

This year Djokovic heads to Paris after finding form to win the Italian Open on the eve of the tournament, while record 21-time Grand Slam champion Nadal is still nursing concerns over a foot injury.

Lurking elsewhere in a tough half of the draw is Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz.

Tipped as tennis' next big thing, Alcaraz has surged to a ranking of world number 6 after bagging clay court titles in Barcelona and Madrid in recent weeks - in the latter tournament defeating both Nadal and Djokovic.

Alcaraz would await the winner of a potential Nadal-Djokovic clash, should the young Spaniard progress along a route that could include a meeting with world number three Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals.  

Chasing a record-equaling Grand Slam title and hoping to put his Australian Open deportation drama behind him, Djokovic opens his campaign in Paris against the unfancied Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.

Nadal meets Australian world number 82 Jordan Thompson in round one.

Fans, pundits, and icons reacted by citing the brutal circumstance of pitting Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz all in the same half of the draw - with American great John McEnroe calling it "unbelievable."

In the other half of the draw, Russian men's interest in Paris will partly rest on Daniil Medvedev.

The 6ft 6in star is seeded second by virtue of his world ranking, although Medvedev is notoriously less at home on the red dirt, even if he surprised some with a quarterfinal run last year.

Medvedev, 26, has also only just made a return from a hernia operation, which could further hinder the US Open champion's chances in Paris. He starts his bid for French glory against Argentine Facundo Bagnis.  

Russian world number seven Andrey Rublev has also landed on what is seen as a favorable side of the draw with Medvedev, as has last year's beaten finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Rublev takes on South Korea's Soonwoo Kwon in round one, while fourth seed Tsitsipas meets Italian youngster Lorenzo Musetti.

Should they progress that far, Medvedev and Rublev could meet in an all-Russian quarterfinal. 

In contrast to their Wimbledon ban, Russian and Belarusian stars have been cleared to compete at the French Open as neutrals.

In the women's draw, Polish world number one Iga Swiatek is the hot favorite to triumph and rolls into Roland-Garros on a remarkable 28-match winning streak.

Swiatek could meet 2018 French Open queen Simona Halep in the fourth round, which would be a big test of her mettle, while Spanish world number three Paula Badosa potentially looms in the semifinals.

Czech ace Barbora Krejcikova, who defeated Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in last year's Paris final while unseeded, has been out for two months with an elbow injury but is still seeded second in Paris.

Pavlyuchenkova, meanwhile, announced this week that she would be forced to miss Paris and the rest of the season due to injury. 

The top-seeded Russian woman in the draw is Daria Kasatkina at number 20, who meets Rebecca Peterson of Sweden in round one. 

Four-time Grand Slam queen Naomi Osaka - whose best run at the French Open is the third round and who withdraw last year in a row over media duties - is unseeded but opens her campaign against Amanda Anisimova.

The pair met as recently as the Australian Open back in January, when Anisimova claimed a shock third-round win.  

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