French Open: Nadal to meet Zverev in opening round

Rafa Nadal
Unseeded Nadal has plummeted down the rankings during an extended spell on the sidelines. File photo: Reuters/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Paris: Rafael Nadal was handed a tough start to what is expected to be his farewell to the French Open as the record 14-time champion was drawn against fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the first round.

Novak Djokovic will begin his quest for a 25th Grand Slam crown against local hope Pierre-Hugues Herbert, while top-ranked Iga Swiatek kicks off her title defence against a qualifier, after the draw was made on Thursday.

Unseeded Nadal, who missed his favourite Grand Slam tournament due to injury last year, has plummeted down the rankings during an extended spell on the sidelines and has said he expects to retire after this season.

The pairing drew an audible gasp in the room and the two will meet for the first time since their 2022 semifinal clash at Roland Garros which Nadal won after Zverev suffered an injury and retired.

"It’s coming a little early in the tournament surely," former world No.1 and tournament director Amelie Mauresmo said about the Nadal-Zverev pairing. "This is good news for neither of them."

Should Nadal win the match, he could face 2021 US Open winner Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals.

There were cheers from the audience when Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka was drawn against fellow three-time Grand Slam winner, Briton Andy Murray.

"It's a superb matchup," Mauresmo, who used to coach Murray, said about the match with Wawrinka.

Djokovic has struggled in the first half of 2024 and is yet to win a title this year. The Serbian was knocked out of the Italian Open in the third round this month after suffering a freak head injury.

The world No.1 , who is competing in this week's Geneva Open, will be looking to put that disappointment behind him and get his season back on track in Paris, where he could meet Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals in a rematch of last year's final.

Two-time Grand Slam champion and last year's losing semi-finalist Carlos Alcaraz begins against a qualifier, while newly-crowned Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner faces American Christopher Eubanks.

In the women's draw, world No. 1 Swiatek is in a hot streak of form after winning both the Madrid Open and Italian Open, and is favourite to claim her fourth title at Roland Garros.

However, the Pole could face a number of tough opponents in her quarterfinal, including four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, Miami Open winner Danielle Collins and Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova.

"This season has been has been really great already for me," Swiatek said. "I know that I can adjust to any kind of conditions even in a short amount of time."

World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka meets Erika Andreeva while Elena Rybakina, who reached the semifinals in Madrid but was forced to pull out of Rome due to illness, takes on Belgium's Greet Minnen.

US Open champion Coco Gauff, who reached the final of the French Open in 2022, will play a qualifier in the first round and could face Ons Jabeur in a mouth-watering quarterfinal clash.

Mauresmo said Swiatek was the favourite in the women's draw, while there was a lot of uncertainty in the men's singles. "Everything is open," she added.

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