Possible routes to final for Djokovic, Nadal, Alcaraz, Swiatek and Raducanu explained

By virtue of his ATP ranking, 13-time winner Rafael Nadal is seeded No 5 at the French Open, with 19-year-old heir apparent Carlos Alcaraz at No 6.

Would either Spaniard therefore collide with Novak Djokovic as early as the quarter-final stage? That was the foremost question heading into Thursday’s draw, and the answer it produced was, well, yes.

What is on paper does not always materialise on court, but having been placed in the same quarter of the draw, Nadal could meet Djokovic in a quarter-final match that will have tongues wagging in Paris, and supporters of both players talking up their respective chances.

Djokovic’s projected route

  • Round one: Yoshihito Nishioka
  • R2: Alex Molcan
  • R3: Jenson Brooksby (31)
  • R4: Diego Schwartzman (15)
  • QF: Rafael Nadal (5)
  • SF: Alexander Zverev (3) or Carlos Alcaraz (6)
  • F: Daniil Medvedev(2) or Stefanos Tsitsipas (4)

This storied rivalry has produced 58 meetings, with Djokovic most recently conquering the “King of Clay” in the French Open semi-finals last year en route to winning his second title in Paris.

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This time around, the winner of this potential quarter-final could then Alcaraz in the semis, in what is ultimately a top-heavy draw that opens the door for Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the final in the weaker bottom half.

The draw has ripped up the prospect of a dream men’s final, but the journey to it starts on Sunday with Alcaraz, Djokovic and Nadal all hoping to underline their credentials.

Nadal enters the French Open without his usual collection of warm-up titles. A recurring foot injury has hampered the 35-year-old since he won the Australian Open in January, while a fractured rib has hardly helped his cause either, resulting in just five matches on clay after early exits in Madrid and Rome.

Nadal’s projected route

  • Round one: Jordan Thompson
  • R2: Stan Wawrinka
  • R3: Botic van de Zandschulp (26)
  • R4: Felix Auger-Aliassime (9)
  • QF: Novak Djokovic (1)
  • SF: Alexander Zverev (3) or Carlos Alcaraz (6)
  • F: Daniil Medvedev(2) or Stefanos Tsitsipas (4)

It was Alcaraz who beat Nadal in the Spanish capital, but what was deemed a passing-of-the-baton moment will only prove thus if the youngster can back it up at the French Open, while besting Nadal in five sets is an altogether different proposition.

Djokovic, meanwhile, will not have minded the Alcaraz-Nadal comparisons making headlines in recent weeks, and though he also lost to Alcaraz in Madrid he bounced back by taking the title in Rome.

Out to match Nadal’s tally of 21 grand slams this coming fortnight, Djokovic opens his title defence against world No 94 Yoshihito Nishioka, while Nadal faces Jordan Thompson and then a possible meeting with 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round.

Alcaraz, to complete the set, meets a qualifier in the first round, and could take on British No 1 Cam Norrie – the No 10 seed who opens against Manuel Guinard – in the fourth round.

Alcaraz’s projected route

  • Round one: Qualifier
  • R2: Albert Ramos-Vinolas
  • R3: Sebastian Korda (27)
  • R4: Cam Norrie (10)
  • QF: Alexander Zverev (3)
  • SF: Novak Djokovic (1) or Rafael Nadal (5)
  • F: Daniil Medvedev(2) or Stefanos Tsitsipas (4)

In the women’s singles, world No 1 Iga Swiatek is the red-hot favourite on a red-hot streak as she takes to the red (sometimes hot) dirt of Roland Garros.

Like Djokovic, Swiatek won recently in Rome, taking the 20-year-old’s winning run to 28 matches having won her four tournaments prior as well.

Swiatek’s projected route

  • Round one: Qualifier
  • R2: Alison Riske
  • R3: Liudmila Samsonova (25)
  • R4: Jelena Ostapenko (13) orSimona Halep (19)
  • QF: Karolina Pliskova (8)
  • SF: Paula Badosa (3)
  • F: Barbora Krejčíková (2)

The 2020 French Open champion faces a qualifier in the opening round, while a meeting with Simona Halep or Jelena Ostapenko, both past champions, looks to be the biggest potential stumbling block in the fourth round.

In terms of British interest, Emma Raducanu is preparing to play her first French Open, and though it would complete a first 12-month cycle on tour – having debuted on grass last June – a recent back injury makes a deep run unlikely, and a late withdrawal still possible.

Raducanu’s projected route

  • Round one: Qualifier
  • R2: Xinyu Wang or Aliaksandra Sasnovich
  • R3: Angelique Kerber (21)
  • R4: Ons Jabeur (6)
  • QF: Maria Sakkari (4)
  • SF: Barbora Krejčíková (2)
  • F: Iga Swiatek (1)

Nevertheless, Raducanu is drawn against a qualifier in the first round, and with the 19-year-old seeded No 12, a fourth-round match with Ons Jabuer is on the cards. No 29 seed Dan Evans takes on Argentine Francisco Cerundolo.

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