Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic on the same half of the Roland-Garros draw
PARIS — Carlos Alcaraz and the man he just replaced at the top of the standings, 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, were placed in the same half of the Roland-Garros table in Thursday’s draw and could meet in the semi-finals.
Alcaraz is seeded No. 1 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time and was automatically placed in the top section of the table. Djokovic is No. 3 so could have ended up on either half – had he landed bottom, he and Alcaraz could only have met in the final at Roland Garros, where Rafael Nadal, 14 times champion, will miss for the first time. since making his clay major debut in 2005.
The game starts on Sunday.
Typically, the previous year’s singles champions are invited to participate in the draw, so 2022 women’s winner Iga Swiatek was in attendance Thursday. Nadal, of course, was not. Yet he was the first player mentioned at the start of the ceremony by French Tennis Federation president Gilles Morreton, who noted: “Unfortunately he cannot play the tournament this year.”
Swiatek appeared to show no ill effects from the right thigh injury that saw her stop playing in the third set of her quarter-final match in Rome last weekend. She indicated almost immediately that the issue would not prevent her from competing in Paris, where she won two of her three major trophies.
“It’s like my favorite tournament of the whole year, so I’m always happy to come back,” said Swiatek, who has been ranked No. 1 for over a year. “Before the tournament, I have this extra motivation to train harder, for everything to improve.”
The draw placed her in a potential quarter-final against No. 6 Coco Gauff in what would be a rematch of last year’s French Open final.
Alcaraz, who just turned 20, and Djokovic, who just turned 36, have only faced each other once before, in the semi-finals of the Madrid Open in May 2022. Alcaraz has it. won 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) – a day after beating Nadal in the quarter-finals, becoming the first player to defeat Djokovic and Nadal in the same tournament on clay. Alcaraz then clinched the title with a straight-set victory over Alexander Zverev in the final.
It was Zverev who ended Alcaraz’s 14-game winning streak in the French Open quarter-finals last year. It was also the round where Nadal stopped Djokovic in a four-set, four-hour thriller.
This time, the men’s seeded quarter-finals would be defending US Open champion Alcaraz against two-time Slam finalist No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas; Djokovic against No. 7 Andrey Rublev; No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, winner of the US Open 2021, against No. 8 Jannik Sinner; and No. 4 Casper Ruud, vice-champion of France and the US Open last year, against No. 6 Holger Rune.
Other women’s matchups in this round could be reigning Wimbledon champion No. 4 Elena Rybakina against two-time major runner-up No. 7 Ons Jabeur; #2 Aryna Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January, against #5 Caroline Garcia; and No. 3 Jessica Pegula against No. 8 Maria Sakkari.
A player who would have been seeded Paula Badosa, 29th, withdrew before the draw, claiming she suffered a stress fracture to her spine during the Italian Open.
Swiatek will start her tournament with a meeting against Cristina Bucsa, a 67th-ranked Spanish player whose career record at Roland-Garros is 0-1.
Some intriguing first-round matches include Sabalenka vs. Marta Kostyuk, Pegula vs. Australian Open 2022 finalist Danielle Collins and Victoria Azarenka vs. Bianca Andreescu in a showdown between the former Grand Slam champions.