Nadal, Djokovic In Same Half At Roland Garros
ATPWorldTour.com breaks down the draw for the second Grand Slam championship of 2017
In-form Rafael Nadal faces a major test if he is to claim ‘La Decima’, a 10th title at Roland Garros this year. The Spanish superstar has been drawn in the same half of the draw as defending champion Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem, the player who beat him in last week's Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarter-finals.
Fourth seed Nadal will meet France’s Benoit Paire in the first round as he looks to add to his incredible 72-2 record at the clay-court Grand Slam championship, where he has clinched the 2005-08, 2010-14 crowns. Nadal could meet No. 31 seed Gilles Simon in the third round, with a potential quarter-final against fifth seed Raonic, who begins his quest against Steve Darcis.
Nadal, who will celebrate his 31st birthday on 3 June, has already captured his 10th title at both the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell in 2017. Two weeks ago, he also won a fifth crown at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Second seed Djokovic, who completed the career Grand Slam with his first Roland Garros title in 2016 (d. Murray), will take on Marcel Granollers in the first round. The Serbian, who has a 12-9 record in Grand Slam championship finals, has started to work with Andre Agassi this week as he seeks his first tour-level title since clinching the Qatar ExxonMobil Open crown (d. Murray) in January.
Djokovic, who also finished runner-up on Parisian clay in 2012, 2014 (l. to Nadal both times) and 2015 (l. to Wawrinka), could meet No. 16 seed Lucas Pouille in the fourth round, before a potential quarter-final against sixth seed Dominic Thiem or No. 10 seed David Goffin. Djokovic beat Thiem in the Rome semi-finals, but was ousted by Goffin in the Monte-Carlo last eight in April. Thiem, who opens his bid against Bernard Tomic, lost to Djokovic in last year’s Roland Garros semi-finals. The Austrian has won six ATP World Tour clay-court crowns and is 17-4 on the surface in 2017.
World No. 1 Andy Murray, who became the first Briton to reach the Roland Garros final since Bunny Austin in 1937, on the back of a title run at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (d. Djokovic), has been working hard in Paris this week with his coaches Ivan Lendl and Jamie Delgado. Murray, who has a 16-7 record in 2017, including the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships trophy (d. Verdasco), opens his campaign against Andrey Kuznetsov. Murray may face a tricky third-round encounter against No. 29 seed Juan Martin del Potro, who opens against a qualifier.
Murray or del Potro could then challenge No. 13 seed Tomas Berdych, who recorded the 600th match win of his career last week in Rome. #NextGenATP German Alexander Zverev, the ninth seed and winner of his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy in The Eternal City last week, begins his quest for glory against Fernando Verdasco. Zverev may then face No. 22 seed Pablo Cuevas in the third round, with a possible fourth-round tie against eighth seed Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori, who competes at Roland Garros for the seventh time hoping to better his 2015 quarter-final run (l. to Tsonga in five sets), plays Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, who is on the comeback trail from a shoulder injury. The Japanese star may meet No. 27 seed Sam Querrey, this year’s Abierto Mexicano Telcel champion, in the third round.
Stan Wawrinka, currently competing at the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open, where he is the defending champion, is 18-8 on the year, but will be hoping to evoke memories of his 2015 Roland Garros title run. Last year’s semi-finalist, who competes in Murray’s half of the draw, opens against a qualifier with a third-round test against Fabio Fognini in prospect. Seventh seed Marin Cilic, No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 15 Gael Monfils, No. 18 Nick Kyrgios, No. 24 Richard Gasquet all feature in Wawrinka's second quarter of the draw.