Can Rafa make it an even dozen at Roland-Garros?

Sunday, May 26

The official draw of the season’s second Grand Slam had barely been decided when the predictions started flooding in. With Federer returning to the City of Lights after a four-year absence, Nadal determined to secure his 12th French Open title and young guns including Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas laser focused on the crown, there’s no telling how things will play out over the next two weeks.

Tough top half

Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Juan Martin del Potro all face obstacles—though nothing insurmountable—on their paths to the finish line. Still, to go deep, they’ll have to be at the top of their games.

The World No.1 will be up against Hubert Hurkacz in his opening round. Djokovic’s Polish opponent is coming off a solid run at the Masters 1000 in Madrid, where he reached the round of 16 before falling to Zverev in three sets. The Serbian superstar could also run into Gilles Simon, Denis Shapovalov and Borna Coric.

Waiting in the quarters may be Alexander Zverev. After a somewhat disappointing start to the season, Zverev arrives in Paris as the newly crowned champion of the Geneva Open—a title that should give him wings. Still, to make it to the final eight, he’ll have to overpower Roberto Bautista Agut, Dusan Lajovic and Monte Carlo Masters champion Fabio Fognini, who is sitting at a career high No.11.

Also in the top half is Thiem, who triumphed at the Barcelona Open in April. He has a difficult road ahead of him, likely Kyle Edmund, Gaël Monfils and Fernando Verdasco, who was surprisingly successful at the Rome Masters.

If he’s able to find his way to the quarters, Thiem will have to exercise a fair amount of caution: he could face Karen Khachanov, Lucas Pouille or Juan Martin del Potro.

Federer’s return, Nadal’s reign

Many fans are hoping the draw holds, since Nadal and Federer are set to clash in the semis.

On one side, red-hot Stefanos Tsitsipas could face Frances Tiafoe, Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic, who is back from injury, on his road to the quarters.

On the other, Federer may have to contend with the always dangerous Diego Schwartzman, Matteo Berrettini and Marco Cecchinato, who found his way to the semis in Paris last year with wins over David Goffin and Novak Djokovic.

For Rafael Nadal, the bottom quarter seems wide open. So much so that many are already predicting an extended reign for the King of Clay.

Indeed, the 11-time French Open champion may have to deal with Nikoloz Basilashvili, Guido Pella and David Goffin before possibly setting up a quarterfinal collision with Kei Nishikori—if he can find his way past Laslo Djere, Alex de Minaur and Daniil Medvedev. Rafa’s first two opponents are qualifiers.

So, who will raise the Coupe des Mousquetaires? Place your bets!

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