French Open Men’s Preview: Nadal, Federer, Djokovic Land In Same Half; Who’s The Pick?
by Sean Randall | May 27th, 2021, 1:45 pm

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 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

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

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

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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9 Comments for French Open Men’s Preview: Nadal, Federer, Djokovic Land In Same Half; Who’s The Pick?

lylenubbins Says:

Nice write-up!

Wog Boy Says:

I think Dave mentioned it and I agree, it’s easier to beat Rafa in SF than in the F, actually, nobody beats Rafa in the FO final, not even next generation, this time Tsitsipas will try his luck against Rafa in the final, he is the leader in ATP race to Turin.

As for Nole, he might not even make SF, his preparation for FO was nonexistent, he was all over the place, inconsistent, spending more time helping family to organise (unnecessary) two ATP tournaments in Belgrade in a space of few weeks and playing tournament week prior GS, last time he did that (if my memory is right) was in 2009 playing Sydney prior AO and we all know how that ended up, nevertheless, good luck Nole.

Dave Says:

Wog Boy,

Are you at it again with your reverse psychology? Hahaha. Nole just played his best match of the season on any surface and won in 55 minutes and your saying this? I’m going to make a point and argue things both ways for Nadal on clay during a time period and Djokovic on clay. The last 7 or 8 matches on clay, either one or the other wasn’t at 100%. I can’t even remember the last match they played where there wasn’t either psychological/confidence issues with Nadal or the same for Djokovic or not running on a full gas tank. 2015-2016 Djokovic wins all 3 matches on clay and all 7 sets. Nadal definitely not himself. 2017 Madrid before Djokovic took his long hiatus with injury, not himself. 2018 Rome, Djokovic a shell of himself coming back from surgery. Rome 2019 Djokovic saves match point against Del Potro on Friday night in a 3 hour match. Saturday night beats Diego in a physical 2 hour and 35 minute match. Looks visibly tired not a full gas tank. Still manages to take a set. This year In Rome, Djokovic plays 4 hours and 56 minutes of physical tennis on Saturday and has to play Nadal about 19 hours later. Definitely not a full gas tank even if he said he could have gon another 2 hours. The mental sharpness needs to be relentless and at 100%. French Open last year. Djokovic has his neck issues and beats PCB in 4 sets and Tsitsipas in 5 in the night match. Doesn’t look even close to 100%. 2014 French Open Final vomiting during the match, maybe it was the sun from Friday against Gulbis. Not saying either player wouldn’t have still won the matches. The point I’m making is that the last time they both played at 100% was 2013 French Open Semi Finals. And we all know just how close that match was. So I would really like to see a match where both are totally ready in every way like that match and see how it goes. If they do meet in the final 4 this year, I don’t think anyone will be expecting a repeat of the Final last year. It will be a much better match. After what I saw today, Djokovic will be much more prepared this time around, Rafa still might win, but I expect a much closer match this time.

Dave Says:

Actually I wouldn’t mind Rafa being more tired going into the match either. Lol. But both at 100% could be epic for sure.

Wog Boy Says:

Dave, you are too smart for me😉
I have seen that match last night and loved the attitude of Argentinian, such a broad smile and nice dude, but I spent more time checking up those nice Serbian women in the stands, I really miss them…don’t worry, my wife is not reading TX, though when it comes to nice women in the stands, nobody, but nobody, beats Acapulco, good Lord, I don’t even know who plays when I watch Acapulco, one day I’ll get there…even in the wheelchair.

Rodney Says:

I’m sure Nadal will win this tournament. What bothers me, so much that I have to comment on it, is the draw itself. This is the worst draw I have ever seen, especially for a grand slam! When do you put a 1st seed (Djokovic) and a 3rd seed (Nadal) in the same half? Then you give Medvedev a 2nd seed ahead of Nadal…are you kidding? Medvedev is a joke right now. He hasn’t won anything on clay this season, and has clearly stated his disdain for the surface. Plus, except for Thiem winning a depleted 2020 US Open over Zverev, none of the ‘young guns’ (Medvedev, Tsisipas, Rublev, etc) have shown they can compete consistently in a 5 set grand slam. And not counting the great Rod Laver, you put without a doubt the best three players in tennis history in the same half?! No matter how this French Open unfolds, the ranking system is completely broken; the French and the ATP really screwed this draw up!!

chofer Says:

I’m not sure about 1 pick here, so it’ll come with an asterisk

Anyway, Nadal won’t falter.



I have a feeling Ruud will end up in the Finl 4.

chrisford1 Says:

Most times the ATP rankings system works well. It is inherently fair, pure performance based except for medical injury/Covid excuses. Sometimes though, you get nutty rankings in individual instances when ratings are applied to seeds on different surfaces. Part of the sport, I think best lest unchanged, even when you have draws like the French Open.

Props to the Djokovic Family for spearheading efforts to get not one tennis event up and running in Serbia, they managed to do 3! Beginning in June 2020 with the Adria Tour that Safety Nazis mopped the floor with Djokovic about, but something now looking like a good-hearted effort to start the effort to recover the pro tennis sport. It was a noble failure. One with mistakes made, but pretty harmless and we have to remember that anyone who strives fails along the way. many times. Then the Serbian Open and Belgrade 2!

I’d like to see Novak get his 2nd one, and in return Rafa get his 2nd AO Title before both call it a career.


tennismonger Says:

chrisford1 wrote:

I’d like to see Novak get his 2nd one, and in return Rafa get his 2nd AO Title before both call it a career.

Nice sentiment, cf1, your loathsome politics notwithstanding…

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