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Nadal vs. Zverev in first round headlines French Open draw

As an unseeded participant with a ranking of No. 276 in the world, Rafael Nadal was always going to be at the mercy of the French Open draw.

To say that the draw ceremony proved to be unkind for him would be an understatement.

Nadal will be going up against none other than world No. 4 and reigning Rome Masters champion Alexander Zverev in the opening round. It’s a rematch of the dramatic 2022 Roland Garros semifinals, in which Nadal took the first set in a tiebreaker before getting a retirement from Zverev in the second-set tiebreaker due to a horrible ankle injury.

This time around it will be a healthy Zverev in peak form against a 37-year-old Nadal who has played sparingly over the past two seasons because of a hip injury.

Of course, the 22-time Grand Slam champion can never be counted out–especially not on this surface He has lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires 14 times and is unquestionably the King of Clay. The Spaniard leads the head-to-head series against Zverev 7-3, including 5-1 on clay.

Whoever emerges victorious in that marquee contest could eventually meet Holger Rune in the last 16, but the Danish star has been struggling. Daniil Medvedev also finds himself in that section of the bracket, but clay is Medvedev’s worst surface.

Also in the top half is, of course, No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic. The 37-tear-old Serb will kick off his fortnight against Frenchman Pierre Hugues-Herbert before possibly running into Lorenzo Musetti in the third round, Tommy Paul in the fourth round, and two-time runner-up Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals.

On the other side of the draw, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz are on a collision course for the semifinals. It’s safe to say that neither player is guaranteed to make it that far, as both have been dealing with injuries. If Sinner and/or Alcaraz falter, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, and Hubert Hurkacz will be looking to capitalize.

In addition to Zverev vs. Nadal, first-round matchups to watch are Ruud vs. Jakub Mensik, Stan Wawrinka vs. Andy Murray, Alex de Minaur vs. Alex Michelsen, Ugo Humbert vs. Lorenzo Sonego, Arthur Fils vs. Matteo Arnaldi, and Alexei Popyrin vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis.

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