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Sunday, June 23, 2024
Sunday June 23, 2024
Sunday June 23, 2024

Rafael Nadal drawn against Alexander Zverev in tough French Open first round

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Rafael Nadal drawn against Alexander Zverev in tough French Open first round

Rafael Nadal will face a challenging start to his French Open return, taking on German fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the first round. Nadal, a 14-time French Open champion, plans to retire later this year, making this potentially his final appearance at Roland Garros. Zverev, 27, is a strong contender for the title, having recently won the Italian Open.

Andy Murray, another veteran, faces fellow seasoned player Stan Wawrinka in his opening match. Murray, 37, has not played extensively on the Roland Garros clay since 2017 and returns after recovering from an ankle injury. Meanwhile, defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic will begin his campaign against French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Iga Swiatek, aiming for her third consecutive women’s title, starts against a qualifier or lucky loser.

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The French Open, the second Grand Slam tournament of the season, begins on Sunday, May 26.

British players have historically struggled on the Paris clay, and this year presents no easier task. Katie Boulter, the highest-ranked British player and 26th seed, faces a tough draw. Boulter will make her main draw debut against former world number two Paula Badosa. If she advances, she could meet former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the second round, followed potentially by Belarusian second seed Aryna Sabalenka in the third round.

Boulter narrowly avoided a first-round matchup against fellow Briton Harriet Dart. Instead, Dart, 27, will play Czech 27th seed Linda Noskova. In the men’s singles, Cameron Norrie, the 32nd seed, could face Murray in the second round if he defeats Pavel Kotov. Dan Evans faces Danish 13th seed Holger Rune, while Jack Draper will play against a qualifier or lucky loser.

In the women’s singles, Swiatek remains the favourite, with Sabalenka as a key challenger. Swiatek could face four-time major champion Naomi Osaka in the second round. Osaka returns to Roland Garros after maternity leave, starting against Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti. American third seed Coco Gauff, who could meet Swiatek in the semi-finals, begins her tournament against a qualifier or lucky loser.

In the men’s draw, Italian second seed Jannik Sinner will play American Chris Eubanks, while Spanish third seed Carlos Alcaraz takes on a qualifier or lucky loser.

Analysis:

The excitement was palpable as Nadal’s name appeared on the LED screen during the draw ceremony. The audience murmured as Nadal was paired with a blank space reserved for a seed. Shocked gasps followed when Zverev filled the gap. Nadal, who missed last year’s tournament due to injuries, returns this year under a protected ranking. His lack of matches over the past 18 months has dropped him to 276th in the world, leaving him unseeded and vulnerable to facing top players early.

Nadal’s match against Zverev will be challenging, as Zverev is in excellent form and proficient on clay. This tough draw sets a dramatic stage for what could be Nadal’s final French Open appearance.

Murray also faces an intriguing draw against Wawrinka. Despite winning just six games in their 2020 match, Murray might not fear Wawrinka, as both players have seen their careers impacted by injuries. Murray and Wawrinka, both three-time major champions, once competed for the sport’s biggest prizes. Their 2017 Roland Garros semi-final exacerbated Murray’s career-changing hip injury, which required multiple surgeries. Wawrinka, 39, has not won back-to-back tour-level matches since the US Open in August, and Murray has only played three matches since March.

Murray avoided surgery on ruptured ankle ligaments to return to Roland Garros. Despite his limited match play, he remains determined to make a final impact at the tournament.

Nadal’s and Murray’s draws highlight the unpredictable and competitive nature of this year’s French Open. With numerous top players and intriguing matchups, the tournament promises to deliver memorable moments.

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