French Open Draw: Big Three All Rise To The Top

Roland Garros draw ceremony (photo: Roland Garros/twitter)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 28, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

With the 2021 French Open slated to begin on Sunday, the men’s and women’s singles draws took place on Thursday afternoon in Paris. There were a few surprises. Biggest was 13-time defending champion Rafael Nadal, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer all landing in the upper half of the draw.

Top seed Djokovic and No. 8 seed Federer could meet in the quarterfinal round at Stade Roland-Garros while either of them could only meet No. 3 seed Nadal in a semifinal match. That’s because the No. 2 seed for this year’s second Grand Slam on red clay is World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev.

First up for Nadal as he goes for an unprecedented 14th French Open title is Alexei Popyrin. If you’re keeping a scoreboard for Nadal, his second-round opponent is like either Hugo Gaston or Richard Gasquet, both of France, while he could meet either Briton Cameron Norrie or Rome semifinalist Lorenzo Sonego in the third round. A very likely round of 16 foe could be another Italian, Jannik Sinner, and seventh seed Andrey Rublev of Russia is a possible quarterfinal opponent.

Djokovic, who is going after his second Roland-Garros title, will start his quest against Tennys Sandgren of the United States. As for Federer, who is making his 19th French Open appearance, he begins with a qualifier to be determined.

Meanwhile, the bottom of the draw will likely be dominated by the likes of Medvedev, No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem, No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev and No. 15 seed Casper Rudd. The fifth seed Tsitsipas has been dominant on clay this spring, winning titles in Monte-Carlo and Lyon and reaching the finals in Barcelona.

Two defending women’s champions in same half of draw

Defending French Open women’s champion Iga Swiatek and 2019 titlist Ashleigh Barty are on a collision course. That’s because the draw gods, as they were referred to by at least one tennis writer on Thursday, conspired to put both in the same half of the draw. What that means is we don’t get to see a dream final between two of the most dominating and entertaining personalities in women’s tennis. Instead, they can only clash in the semifinals.

In their only previous meeting, Barty beat Swiatek during the round of 16 at Madrid earlier this month. As the top seed, Barty, who has gone 13-3 on clay and won a title on red dirt in Stuttgart, will face Bernarda Pera of the United States and could face No. 25 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the third round. Plus, there’s likely either No. 13 seed Jennifer Brady or No. 24 seed Coco Gauff, both of the United States, in the round of 16. Want more? How about Barty and No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals.

As for Swiatek, who won her second title of the year on clay two weeks ago in Rome, she’s merely won 14 of her last 16 matches on the surface. After opening with her good friend Kaja Juvan of Slovenia in the first round, she could meet 2016 quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers of the United States on round two. Later on, Swiatek could match up with 2016 Roland-Garros champion Garbiñe Muguruza in the round of 16 and she could play No. 4 seed Sofia Kenin in the quarterfinal round, which would be a rematch of last year’s final. Finally, there would be Barty – and, remember, that’s just a semifinal match.

Meanwhile, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams returns in quest of a record-tying 24th major title that has eluded her for more than three years. She’s drawn Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu for her first match.

The bottom half of the draw features No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka and also includes No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka, No. 6 seed Bianca Andreescu, No. 11 seed Petra Kvitova and a marquee first-round clash between Serbia Open winner Paula Badosa of Spain and up-and-coming Clara Tauson from Denmark.

Have plenty of popcorn at the ready, there’s plenty of wonderful men’s and women’s matches coming your way during the Parisian fortnight.

From qualifying draw to main draw

Thursday’s French Open qualifying results

Friday’s French Open qualifying order of play