Nadal fails to avoid Djokovic in draw

May 28, 2021
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    Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal after their recent Italian Open finalNadal (right) beat Djokovic in last year's French Open final, then earned another clay-court win against his great rival in the Italian Open final earlier this month

    French Open 2021
    Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 30 May-13 June
    Coverage: Selected radio and text commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website, plus daily reports and analysis

    Defending champion Rafael Nadal could meet Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals after the pair landed in the same half of the men's draw.

    Nadal, 34, is a record 13-time champion at Roland Garros but is seeded third behind Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev.

    The Spaniard starts against Australia's Alexei Popyrin, while Serbia's Djokovic plays American Tennys Sandgren.

    Swiss eighth seed Roger Federer has also been drawn in the same half as Nadal and Djokovic.

    Federer, 39, returns to the Paris clay after missing last year's tournament through injury and will face a qualifier in his opening match, with Djokovic potentially looming in the quarter-finals.

    In the women's draw for the tournament that starts on Sunday, Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty starts against 70th-ranked American Bernarda Pera.

    Japanese second seed Naomi Osaka, who says she will not speak to the media during the tournament, faces Romania's Patricia Maria Tig.

    Polish teenager Iga Swiatek opens her defence of the title against her close friend Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, while last year's runner-up Sofia Kenin faces 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko.

    Serena Williams, bidding for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, starts against Romania's world number 74 Irina-Camelia Begu.

    The singles draws were made behind closed doors at Roland Garros on Thursday, with the draws for the men's and women's doubles set to take place on Sunday.

    • Osaka to avoid questions from the media at French Open
    • From a 'scaredy cat' to a 'raging bull': How tough love shaped Nadal
    • The sides of Djokovic which shaped a champion

    What about the Brits?

    British number one Johanna Konta, seeded 19th, has the chance to avenge her US Open second-round defeat by Romania's Sorana Cirstea after the pair were drawn against each other again.

    British number two Heather Watson – the nation's only other representative in the women's draw – faces Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

    • Britain's Dart loses in final round of French Open qualifying

    On the men's side, British number one and 25th seed Dan Evans takes on Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic as he aims for his first main-draw win at Roland Garros.

    In-form Cameron Norrie – who has the third highest number of ATP match wins this year – will start against a qualifier.

    British number two Norrie, 25, could face Nadal in the third round.

    Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray and former British number one Kyle Edmund are missing through injury.

    'A chance for Thiem, Tsitsipas or Zverev' – analysis

    Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent

    Federer says he is in Paris to build up sharpness for Wimbledon; Nadal and Djokovic are most definitely here to win.

    But if the Spaniard and the Serb are to meet for a 58th time, it will be in the semi-finals, which Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic thinks will be psychologically less challenging for his man.

    As the third seed, Nadal knew he had a 50-50 chance of ending up in Djokovic's half.

    Daniil Medvedev is the second seed this year, even though the Russian has never won a main draw match at Roland Garros and makes no secret of his contempt for clay.

    So expect one of Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev to come through the bottom half of the draw – and most likely play Djokovic or Nadal in the final.

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