For the first time post-pandemic the Big 3 of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are back together in a draw. And maybe for the first time ever, all three are on the same side of a Slam draw!
Would you believe it? It happened because the rankings are all out of whack which then impacts the seedings.
Net result is there won’t be a Nadal-Djokovic rematch in the final like last October or in Rome, and some lucky cat on the other side is going to have a great chance at a Slam title.
So what’s going to happen? To the draw.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC QUARTER
Novak has to like his quarter. I know there are some names in there with Federer, Matteo Berrettini, David Goffin, Felix Auger-Aliassime, but there no one in that section who should take more than a set off Djokovic. Ugo Humbert in the third round is decent, then maybe Goffin or the youngster Lorenzo Musetti, then likely Matteo Berrettini in the quarters. Federer opens against a qualifier which could be tricky with clay guys like Carlos Alcaraz or Juan Manuel Cerundolo potentially. Taylor Fritz in the third could also spell trouble for Federer but if Roger does make it to the fourth, I think Berrettini would overpower him. So I like Djokovic to beat Berrettini to get back to another French semi. It’s a good draw which should keep the Serb fresh for the semifinals. He’ll likely need that energy because he knows what’s coming.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic
RAFAEL NADAL QUARTER
Probably the toughest quarter and no one is more ready for such a challenge than Rafael Nadal. The 13-time French winner and tournament favorite hasn’t been at his very best leading up to Paris, but he’s been good enough. Rafa will get tested right away by the big-serving, upset-minded Australian Alexei Popyrin, then either dropshotting Hugo Gaston or Richard Gasquet followed by Lorenzo Sonego in the third. Popyrin on a fast surface could pose a threat, but Rafa looks good early. Things pick up in the fourth with Jannik Sinner and then Andrey Rublev in the quarters. Sinner comes through his little section beating maybe Gael Monfils. He played Rafa tough last fall. Rublev has Jan-Lennard Struff early, then possibly Nikolaz Basilashvili followed by Aslan Karatsev. All dangerous matches, but I’ll go with the Rublev, though not to beat Nadal!
The Pick: Rafael Nadal
DOMINIC THIEM QUARTER
It feels like Alexander Zverev is starting to turn that corner. He won Madrid, had a tough loss to Rafa in Rome, made the US Open finals. If his serve is on track, he’s going to do big things in Paris. And he’s got a good draw. With a bunch of qualifiers in his section, you can pen him into the quarters. Kei Nishikori, Roberto Bautista Agut or the slumping Karen Khachanov could be fourth round foes for the German, but not real threats (Nishikori has been playing well). Guys like Dominic Thiem and Casper Ruud, on the other hand, are contenders. Thiem always plays well in Paris, loves the clay, but maybe isn’t in full flight right now — he could get there, though. Ruud is. I think Ruud beats Hubert Hurkacz in the third, stuns Thiem in the fourth to meet Zverev. It’s a tough battle, but based on experience, I’m going to lean with Alexander here.
The Pick: Alexander Zverev
DANIIL MEDVEDEV QUARTER
With Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, John Isner, Reilly Opelka, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, this would be a great quarter at a hard court Slam, not on clay. Tsitsipas is the class here but the Greek could face the dangerous Sebastian Korda in the second round. Isner could be there in the third, but otherwise this should be a good road for Tsitsipas. Korda might be gassed from Parma, Isner is getting up there in years and Medvedev doesn’t figure to be a big factor — he’s never won a match at Roland Garros — and could go out to Alexander Bublik. I think the clay-heady Cristian Garin gets out to Tsitsipas but the Stef gets through.
The Pick: Stefanos Tsitsipas
Nadal d Djokovic: I know Djokovic wants to peak for the Slams, but this is Rafa’s home.
Zverev d Tsitsipas: In a big-time NextGen SF, for some reason I’m leaning Zverev in 5.
Nadal d Zverev: Nadal gets his 14th and what I think will be his last French title.
I know a lot has already been made about the draw inequality. But I like it. I like that we won’t have another Nadal-Djokovic final. And I hope it’s not Thiem who emerges from the bottom half. I’d like to see someone else. A new face in the French final.
The draw is interesting in that you have the top half filled with the established greats (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) and the bottom with many of the young guys (Zverev, Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Ruud). In fact, there are a total of 59 Grand Slam titles on the top half, just one on the bottom (Thiem).
Regardless of placement, there were always five guys tops who could win this title (in order): Nadal, Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Zverev, Thiem. And you could argue Thiem shouldn’t be in that group.
It’s good to have Roger back in what I think will be his final French — he turns 40 later this summer. So I feel this is it for the Big 3 in Paris. Let’s see if they come away with the big prize.
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