Big three drawn in same half of French Open as Serena eyes 24th Grand Slam title - GulfToday

Big three drawn in same half of French Open as Serena eyes 24th Grand Slam title

Rafael Nadal

Spain’s Rafael Nadal (left) talks with his coach Carlos Moya during a training session at Roland Garros Stadium ahead of the French Open in Paris on Thursday. Associated Press

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, the three most successful men in Grand Slam tennis history, were on Thursday all drawn in the same half of the French Open.

Having slipped to number three in the world, it was always likely that Nadal, the 13-time champion, would face top-ranked Djokovic before the final.

The two great rivals could now meet in the semi-finals this year.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion, is top seed and could possibly face 2009 winner Federer in the quarter-finals.

All three men are chasing history at the French Open which starts on Sunday.

Nadal and Federer are locked on 20 Grand Slams each while Djokovic, who has 18, can become the first man in over half a century to win all four majors on more than one occasion.

Nadal, who has a 100-2 record at the tournament, starts his bid for a 14th French Open title against Alexei Popyrin of Australia, the world number 62.

His most likely quarter-final opponent is Russia’s Andrey Rublev who defeated him at the Monte Carlo Masters last month.

Djokovic tackles 66th-ranked Tennys Sandgren of the US in his first round match while Federer, playing the tournament for the first time since 2019, begins against a qualifier.

Fellow veteran Marin Cilic, a former US Open winner, is a possible second round rival.

Djokovic has lost three finals to Nadal at the French Open in 2012, 2014 and then last year where the Spaniard swept to victory 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.

Russia’s second seed Daniil Medvedev, who has lost all four times he has played at the French Open, starts against Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan.

Two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem, seeded four, begins against Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar.

It was Andujar who defeated Federer in Geneva last week in the Swiss great’s only appearance on clay this season.

Meanwhile, Djokovic booked his place in the semi-finals in Belgrade with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Federico Coria on Thursday that puts him fifth on the list of Open era wins.

The 56-minute demolition of the 96th ranked Argentinian took Djokovic to 952 wins, putting him one win ahead of Guillermo Vilas.

In the women’s draw, world number one Ashleigh Barty, the 2019 champion, tackles Bernarda Pera of the US first up.

Second seed Naomi Osaka, a four-time major winner who has never got past the third round in Paris, begins against Romania’s 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig.

Serena Williams, a three-time French Open winner and still seeking an elusive record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, faces Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania.

Defending champion Iga Swiatek plays close friend Kaja Juvan of Slovenia in her opener.

If the seedings pan out, Barty and Swiatek will face each other in the semi-finals.

Serena is in the other half of the draw where Osaka is seeded to face Madrid champion Aryna Sabalenka in the last four.

‘No-one is Invincible:’ Nadal said ‘no-one is invincible’ in an interview with on Thursday “No-one is invincible, anywhere,” said Nadal whose career record at Roland Garros stands at 100 victories against just two losses since his title-winning Paris debut in 2005.

“This year I lost (early) in Monte Carlo and Madrid. I hope not to lose here at Roland Garros. What I can do is fight.”

Osaka to skip news: Japan’s Naomi Osaka that she will not take part in news conferences at the forthcoming French Open, believing that some post-match inquests are little more than “kicking a person while they’re down”.

The world number two, a four-time Grand Slam title winner, says she will donate the fines she will accrue to mental health charities.


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