French Open Draws Filled With Mystery, Intrigue And Misery, Too

Roland Garros 2022 draw ceremony (photo: Roland Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 20, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Thursday evening’s 2022 French Open men’s and women’s singles draw ceremony at Musee de l’Orangerie in the 1st arrondissement of Paris was filled with plenty of mystery and intrigue – and misery, too.

By the end of the 50-minute colorful event, the first featuring Amelie Mauresmo in her debut as tournament director, there were many emerging storylines to whet everyone’s appetite, which undoubtedly will be sorted out over the Parisian fortnight starting Sunday.

On the men’s side, defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic from Serbia and 13-time French Open winner and No. 5 seed Rafael Nadal of Spain are in the same quarter of the upper-half of the draw. They could meet in the quarterfinals – not the semifinals or the finals. They’ve met three previous times in the Roland Garros title match, but it won’t happen this year. That’s not only baffling and unbalanced but also a gut punch to tennis fans at the same time.

Also, in the same half of the draw as Djokovic and Nadal is none than other poised and ready 19-year-old NextGen ATP star Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, who has already won three titles this season – including two Masters 1000 (Miami and Madrid). He knocked off both Nadal and Djokovic in back-to-back matches earlier this month in the Spanish capital city. The sixth-seeded Alcaraz could meet No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in the quarterfinal round, in a rematch of their Madrid final. With four of the men’s top six players in the same half of the draw, misery certainly has its company.

Djokovic, coming off his first title of the season at Rome, will face No. 94 Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in the opening round. Nadal’s first-round opponent will be 82nd-ranked Australian Jordan Thompson, and both Alcaraz and Zverev begin against qualifiers.

On the other side of the men’s draw, in the bottom half, there’s World No. 2 and second seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, seventh seed Andrey Rublev of Russia and eighth seed Casper Ruud from Norway, among the title-worthy contenders. Medvedev and Rublev could meet in the quarterfinals, ditto for Tsitsipas and Ruud.

Medvedev begins against No. 98 Facundo Bagnis of Argentina in search of his first clay victory of the season, while Rublev opens against South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon, ranked 71st. The first opponent for Tsitsipas is NextGen ATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti, ranked 57th, and Ruud faces 267th-ranked wild card Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who will retire following Roland Garros.

During the draw ceremony, Djokovic, who turns 35 on Sunday, expressed his appreciation that there will be a full return of fans to Stade Roland Garros for this year’s major event.

“It’s amazing to see the amount of people that came this week during the qualifying week and also at the practice sessions,” Djokovic said. “A lot of people on the Centre Court (Court Philippe Chatrier) and on Court Suzanne Lenglen as well. It’s fantastic to see that because you can see how much they miss tennis, how much they are passionate and how much they love this sport. And, of course, for us players, it’s an incredible feeling to have the crowd.

“Particularly for me at this stage of my career, they are one of the main factors of why I still play professional tennis and why I compete. The energy that you get from the crowd, the excitement, is something very important for us.”

Past, reigning champions, Swiatek and Krejcikova, top women’s seeds

Meanwhile, on the women’s side, defending champion and World No. 2 Barbora Krejcikova from the Czech Republic, who has missed much of this season due to injury, is back and seeded second at the bottom of the draw. However, much of the focus will be on World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland, who won the 2020 French Open title, is seeded first, and without a doubt  is the hottest player in women’s tennis. She’s won five consecutive WTA titles – Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome – and looks ready for more success. She’ll open against a qualifier and could meet 2018 Roland Garros champion Simona Halep of Romania, ranked 19th, in the fourth round.

Defending champion Krejcikova, who has played in only four WTA events this year, will begin her title defense against France’s 96th-ranked Diane Parry. She could face former World No. 1 and current No. 15 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus or Switzerland’s No. 23 Jil Teichmann, who was a Madrid semifinalist and Rome quarterfinalist.

“Last year was extremely amazing,” Krejcikova said during the draw ceremony. “I think the result I had was something incredible. I’m really happy that it happened, but for sure, I didn’t expect it to happen. I’m super happy to be back here. I’m just looking forward to start playing. I hope it’s going to be a good year, again.”

A lot of attention will be on unseeded and 38th-ranked Naomi Osaka, who drew 2019 Roland Garros semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the opening round. Last year, the Japanese superstar Osaka cut her French Open short and withdrew after a first-round victory rather to subject herself to mandatory press conferences out of concern for her mental health and wellbeing. More recently, it was the American Anisimova who took out the two-time Australian Open champion in the third round at Melbourne in January. Now ranked 28th, Anisimova has made back-to-back clay quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome. They both landed in the bottom half of the draw, where No. 4 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece and No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia both are and each of these seeds can be expected to go far.

Another intriguing first-round match will involve Spanish No. 10 seed Garbiñe Muguruza, who has struggled this season as her 7-8 win-loss record attests after winning the WTA Final in Guadalajara at the end of last season. She’s lost three of her past four matches and bowed early in each of her last three clay-court tournaments, in Madrid, Rome and this week in Rabat, after dealing with a recent shoulder injury. She’ll face Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, ranked 46th, who has been a quarterfinalist at all four majors and has a big history of taking out big names at big events.


Clara Tauson of Denmark, last year’s finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo were late withdrawals from the women’s draw, while Gaël Monfils of France, Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff have pulled out of the men’s draw. As a result, there will be 19 qualifiers added to each draw instead of the customary 16.