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Big 3 Party in the Same Half: Djokovic, Nadal, Federer All up Top in French Open Draw

By Ricky Dimon

For the first time ever, the Big 3 is in the same half of a Grand Slam singles draw.

That’s right; Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer all landed in the top half when the 2021 French Open draw ceremony was held on Thursday afternoon in Paris. Djokovic, the No. 1 seed, and the eighth-seeded Federer find themselves in the top quarter of the bracket. Nadal could meet one of his two biggest rivals in the semifinals.

Of course, Federer’s placement was never really going to be big news; and it still shouldn’t be despite the fact that he could hypothetically play Djokovic in the quarters and Nadal in the semis. It’s fun for the media to gush over a first-ever Big 3 section of a slam draw, but the reality is that Federer–by his own admission–is not expected to be a factor at Roland Garros. The 39-year-old is simply making an appearance because he is healthy and wants to get some matches under his belt in advance of Wimbledon and eventually the Olympics and U.S. Open.

Switzerland’s tennis player Roger Federer in action during a training session prior to the ATP 250 Tennis Geneva Open tournament in Geneva, Switzerland, 14 May 2021. EPA-EFE/MARTIAL TREZZINI

The legitimately big story is that Djokovic and Nadal are on the same side. If there is a rematch of last year’s French Open final, it will come in the semis instead of with another title on the line. With Daniil Medvedev ranked No. 2 in the world, Nadal was left at the mercy of the draw as the third seed. Mercy is something Thursday’s ceremony did not show, as another Djokovic-Nadal semifinal showdown–which would invoke memories of their 2013 epic at the same stage–became a possibility.

Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during his quarter final match against Alexander Zverev of Germany at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, central Spain, 07 May 2021. EPA-EFE/CHEMA MOYA

“I see it as natural,” Nadal said of the change in rankings and seedings. “One player is almost 40, another is almost 35, and the other is 34. It seems logical that younger players climb in the rankings.Whenever that happens you have these consequences. I see it as completely normal; I’m not worried about it. I have a lot of work in front of me to play a potential match versus Djokovic (in the semifinals).

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his men’s singles quarterfinal match against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 15 May 2021. EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI

“[Djokovic and Federer] would need to play each other and I have my own path. My path right now is (Alexei) Popyrin (in the first round), and that’s where my mind is. My draw is hard enough to be thinking about anything else. I must continue my preparation, focus on my routines, and keep advancing in the way we want.”

A Nadal-Djokovic semi became a possibility, and an imbalanced bracket became a reality.

Rafael Nadal (R) of Spain poses with his trophy after winning his men’s singles final against Novak Djokovic (L) of Serbia at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 16 May 2021. EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI

That’s not to say the bottom half is completely depleted even without the likes of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer. The good news for the Serb and Spaniard is that they avoided a potential quarterfinal clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has to be considered the third favorite for the Coupe des Mousquetaires even though he missed out on a top four seed as the No. 5 player in the world. Tsitsipas finds himself in the bottom quarter with arch rival Medvedev, a perfect spot for the Greek given that the Russian is a clay-court novice. A semifinalist last fall (he lost to Djokovic in five sets), Tsitsipas could be on a collision course for the semis with either Dominic Thiem or Alexander Zverev this time around. Thiem is a two-time French Open finalist, but Zverev is in superior form this spring. The German captured the title in Madrid, beating both Nadal and Thiem in straight sets along the way.

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece celebrates with the trophy after winning his final match against Andrey Rublev of Russia at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament in Roquebrune Cap Martin, France, 18 April 2021. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

Roberto Bautista Agut and Casper Ruud could also cause some trouble in the Thiem-Zverev section, while Jannik Sinner is worth keeping an eye on in Nadal’s quarter.

Ricky contributes to
 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

Editors note. We’ve posted the draws. But here’s the men’s draw link.    

Please add link. Or not. Your call. Editors note maybe removed. Ok.