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French Open draw ceremony produces a Djokovic-Nadal quarter, Alcaraz also in top half

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are on a quarterfinal collision course at Roland Garros. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

By Ricky Dimon

The French Open draw ceremony delivered the most difficult potential paths to the the title for the top three favorites.

Thursday’s proceedings in Paris put Rafael Nadal with Novak Djokovic in a brutal top quarter of the bracket. As if that isn’t tough enough, Carlos Alcaraz is also in the top half.

Nadal left himself at the mercy of the draw after losing to Denis Shapovalov in the Rome third round last week. That result propelled Stefanos Tsitsipas past Nadal in the rankings, giving the 2021 French Open runner-up a top-four seed in Paris. Nadal fell into the 5-8 seeded group at No. 8, as we saw on Thursday that ended up costing him dearly. Of course, the 13-time Roland Garros champion’s ongoing foot injury was a big problem in Rome so it remains to be seen if he can even make a possible quarterfinal matchup with Djokovic become a reality.

Up first for Nadal is Jordan Thompson, while Felix Auger-Aliassime–who is coached by Toni Nadal–could be a fourth-round opponent.

Alcaraz may not like seeing Djokovic and Nadal in the same half, but he won’t be looking ahead just yet to a possible semifinal showdown against one of those two all-time greats. In round three the 19-year-old Spaniard could run into Sebastian Korda, the only player to beat him on clay this season. Alcaraz lost to Korda in Monte-Carlo before reeling off titles in Barcelona and Madrid. The world No. 6, who proceeded to withdraw from Rome, also lifted the Rio de Janeiro trophy earlier this year.

Jannik Sinner of Italy reacts during Roland Garros in Paris. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

The bottom half, of course, is the place to be. It is shaping up nicely for Tsitsipas to make a return trip to the final, while Andrey Rublev and Jannik Sinner are also contenders. If Rublev and Sinner square off in the fourth round, the winner would be favored against anyone in the quarterfinals. It probably won’t be No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev, but rather Miomir Kecmanovic, Pablo Carreno Busta, or Marin Cilic.

Tsitsipas’ section is friendly as a whole, but the Greek has to go up against Lorenzo Musetti in round one.

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