Novak Djokovic and World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz have been pitted on the same side of the French Open draw in news that has set tongues wagging in the tennis world. Many fans would have been hoping the 22-time grand slam champion and the Spanish young gun could meet in the final, particularly in the wake of Rafael Nadal's absence from Roland Garros.
Daniil Medvedev's victory at the Italian Open meant he leapfrogged Djokovic into the World No.2 ranking, in turn opening up the possibility that the Serb and Alcaraz could be drawn on the same side. For fans hoping to see a French Open decider between Djokovic and Alcaraz, that will unfortunately not be a possibility, with the pair set to meet at the semi-final if they both progress that far.
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That feat will be an accomplishment in itself, particularly for Alcaraz, whose draw poses several tricky questions. The biggest for the 20-year-old Spaniard could be a quarter-final showdown against 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitpsipas, the Greek World No.5.
Djokovic is chasing a record 23rd men's major and has a glorious chance to overtake his great rival Nadal, who will miss the tournament at Roland Garros for the first time since his 2005 title-winning debut. Djokovic - the 2016 and 2021 champion - meets 114th-ranked Aleksandar Kovacevic of the US in the first round.
The Serb - who turned 36 this week - goes in to the clay court grand slam under somewhat of an injury cloud, having been bothered by a recurrence of a right elbow injury which has disrupted his clay-court preparations. Djokovic has failed to go beyond the last-eight at any of the three events he's played on clay this season, eventually losing his No.1 ranking to Alcaraz.
US Open champion Alcaraz and Medvedev both start their Roland Garros campaigns against a qualifier or lucky loser. Alcaraz faces a challenging path to a second major title, however, with Lorenzo Musetti a possible last-16 clash before Greek ace Tsitsipas potentially awaits in the last-eight.
For Djokovic to set up a blockbuster semi-final clash with Alcaraz he may need to get past Monte Carlo Masters champion Andrey Rublev in the quarters. Casper Ruud, who was thrashed by Nadal in last year's final, is seeded fourth and plays a qualifier in his opening match. The in-form Holger Rune arrives in Paris at a career-high six in the world and takes on Christopher Eubanks of the US in round one.
The men's draw has certainly raised eyebrows across the tennis world, with the potential blockbuster semi-final clash between Djokovic and Alcaraz dominating the discussions on social media. One positive comes in the fact that the pair can't meet any earlier than the last four, however, plenty of fans have been left gutted they can't meet in the final.
Just woke up and looked at the #RolandGarros men’s draw…
Alcaraz and Djokovic in same half 🍿
Alcaraz v Stef QF 🔥
Rune v Ruud QF 🔥
Fognini v FAA round 1 looks brilliant
Medvedev v Sinner possibility
Also, Thompson v Purcell guarantees one Aussie in the second round
— Val Febbo (@VFebbo96) May 25, 2023
Djokovic - Alcaraz final could have been epic and legendary. Imagine playing for #1 and the French title. Oh well, tennis pulling it's usual tennis behavior. I guarantee you Dana White would never let this happen in MMA. Why aren't 1v4, 2v3 locked as the corners of the draw?
— Brent (@wimbledonsmcats) May 25, 2023
alcaraz/djokovic/tsitsipas all in the same half of the draw is crazyyy ngl. feel like the obvious answer here would be that the champion is coming out of that half of the draw but i'm actually a big believer in the daniil medvedev 2023 rg champion agenda, so.
— lara ✨ (@tenniscourt_mp3) May 25, 2023
Novak Djokovic in the same half of the draw as Carlos Alcaraz. This is not a drill 🚨🚨🚨🚨#RolandGarros
— Tennis Weekly Podcast (@tennisweeklypod) May 25, 2023
Alcaraz & Djokovic are in the same half of the draw but it’s not possible for them to meet before the semis. This is good.
— adii (@colonelvan) May 25, 2023
1) Not good for #Djokovic to have #Alcaraz in semi, but he avoided Rune/Sinner (in #Medvedev's half), very good for him.
2) Some tricky opponents for Alcaraz (Shapo R3, Musetti R4, Tsitsipas QF) but he should be able to beat them if not hurt or in a bad day 👇
— Flavietto99 🇮🇹 (RAFA 22 🏆) 🥚 (@FlavioBertolin8) May 25, 2023
Not had much time to process but some initial thoughts:
1. Seems like a good draw for Sabalenka
2. Alcaraz could have it very tough in the second week having to go through Tsitsipas (QF) and Djokovic (SF) before the final.
Your impressions? #RolandGarros
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) May 25, 2023
Of course we’re not getting a Djokovic Alcaraz matchup in the final 🤦♂️ https://t.co/sdto2kMAkc
— Double Fault 🎾 (@DoubleFaultBets) May 25, 2023
World No.1 Iga Swiatek cops tricky draw
On the women's side, two-time champion Iga Swiatek begins her title defence against Spain's Cristina Bucsa, the World No.67 who was beaten by the Pole in the third round of this year's Australian Open. Swiatek is bidding to become the first back-to-back women's champion at the French Open in 16 years.
Coming off a thigh injury which forced her to retire in Rome, the Pole is projected to meet 2022 runner-up Coco Gauff in the quarter-finals and could face Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina - last week's Italian Open winner - in the last four.
Rybakina has beaten Swiatek three times this season, knocking her out of the Australian Open Melbourne and Indian Wells before advancing when injury halted her rival in Rome. Barbora Krejcikova, the 2021 winner, could await Swiatek in the last 16. The Czech lost in the first round a year ago.
Aryna Sabalenka, who won her maiden major title in Melbourne, plays Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk in round one. Sabalenka has never gotten beyond the third round in Paris despite making at least the semi-finals at all of the other three majors. Third seed Jessica Pegula has a tricky opening match against fellow American and 2022 Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins, while Rybakina gets a qualifier first up.
Seventh seed Ons Jabeur is a potential quarter-final opponent for Rybakina, who defeated the Tunisian in the 2022 Wimbledon final. Jabeur also finished runner-up to Swiatek at the US Open.
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