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Rafael Nadal dodges rivals like Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem - Roland Garros draw talking points

Sport360° logo Sport360° 25/05/2018 Syndigate.info

The French Open draw was revealed on Thursday night at the beautiful Orangerie building in the Botanical Gardens adjacent to Roland Garros.

A suited up Rafael Nadal, who is looking to become just the second player in history – alongside Margaret Court – to win 11 titles at the same Grand Slam, made an appearance at the ceremony, together with women’s defending champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Here are the men’s draw main talking points ahead of the tournament’s Sunday kick-off in Paris’ 16th arrondissement.

RAFA DODGES CONTENDERS

The draw gods were kind to Nadal and his quest for a record-extending 11th Roland Garros crown.

Novak Djokovic holding a football ball © Provided by Sport360°

The reigning champion and top seed has seen the majority of his toughest rivals all land on the opposite side of the draw, with Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori and David Goffin all in the bottom half.

The Mallorcan, whose win-loss tally at the event is a stunning 79-2, enters Roland Garros with a 19-1 record on clay this season. That one defeat came to Thiem, in the Madrid quarter-finals earlier this month, and he was pushed to a rare three-setter by Zverev in the Rome final last week.

Nadal’s potential path to La Undecima looks like this:

R1: Dolgopolov; R2: J Sousa/Pella; R3: Gasquet; R4: Shapovalov/Sock; QF: Anderson/Schwartzman; SF: Cilic/Del Potro; F: Zverev/Dimitrov/Djokovic/Goffin/Thiem

He’d definitely take that!

TOUGH FOR THIEM

The Austrian No. 7 seed, who has made back-to-back Roland Garros semi-finals over the past years, shares a quarter with Madrid champion Alexander Zverev. But before a potential last-eight meeting with the 21-year-old German, Thiem might have to overcome dangerous Next Gen star Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round. Tsitsipas defeated Thiem en route to the Barcelona final last month.

Rafael Nadal wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera © Provided by Sport360°

Monte Carlo runner-up Nishikori possibly awaits Thiem in the fourth round before a potential blockbuster quarter-final with Zverev.

SIZZLING SASCHA CAN SCORE ONE FOR THE YOUTH

Rafael Nadal holding a racket © Provided by Sport360°

After reaching the semis in Monte Carlo, Zverev made three finals in three weeks, winning Munich and Madrid back-to-back before falling to Nadal in the Rome final.

The young German is an impressive 17-3 on clay this season, with two of those defeats coming to Nadal (in Davis Cup and Rome). Zverev, whose success on tour has seen him claim three Masters 1000 crowns and rise to No. 3 in the world, is yet to make it past the fourth round at any Grand Slam.

But his form in the build-up to Paris places him as one of the biggest threats to Nadal’s throne.

If Zverev wins the Roland Garros title, he would be the youngest men’s singles Grand Slam champion since a 20-year-old Del Potro won the US Open in 2009.

With Federer out of action, Zverev is the No. 2 seed in Paris. It’s the first time since 2005 that someone outside the ‘Big Four’ is among the top two seeds at Roland Garros.

OPPORTUNITY FOR DJOKOVIC

Djokovic’s search for form gathered some steam last week when he reached the semi-finals in Rome and he could try to build more momentum this upcoming fortnight in Paris.

The Serb will be looking to become the first man in the Open Era to win at least two titles at each of the four Grand Slams.

Djokovic opens his campaign against a qualifier. If he wants to make it out of his half of the draw, he may have to overcome the likes of former French Open runner-up David Ferrer, No. 13 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who has had success against Djokovic in the past, Dimitrov, Goffin, and Thiem/Nishikori/Zverev.

It’s a draw that will require lots of grinding from the 2016 champion, but it is also one that can give him doses of confidence with every passing round.

STAN V GGL THE SEQUEL

Last year’s runner-up Stan Wawrinka has a rematch with Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in a repeat of their opening round in Paris in 2014. Wawrinka, who had knee surgery last August, lost that 2014 showdown and he enters this clash with Garcia-Lopez with just three matches contested in the last three months.

Wawrinka leads their head-to-head 7-3 overall.

DIMITROV’S PARIS PREDICAMENT

The fourth-seeded Bulgarian has never had much luck in Paris, losing in the first round in four of his seven appearances at Roland Garros, and never making it past the third round. Dimitrov opens against Serbia’s Viktor Troicki, who defeated the Bulgarian in their first round here in 2016.

NO. 1 ON THE LINE

As has been the case throughout this clay season, Nadal will have to defend his title in Paris in order to hold onto his No. 1 ranking. Any other result will see Roger Federer return to the top spot.

FIRST ROUNDS TO WATCH

Borna Coric (CRO) v Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER x22)

Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Kyle Edmund (GBR x16)

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) v Viktor Troicki (SRB)

Sam Querrey (USA x12) v Frances Tiafoe (USA)

Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) v Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)

Malek Jaziri (TUN) v Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)

STANDOUT STATS

11 – Marin Cilic is looking to become the 11th man in the Open Era to reach the final of each of the four Slams at least once.

65 – Feliciano Lopez matches Roger Federer’s Open Era streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slams contested.

PROJECTED QUARTER-FINALS (BY SEED)

Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) v Kevin Anderson (RSA x6)

Marin Cilic (CRO x3) v Juan Martin del Potro (ARG x5)

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x4) v David Goffin (BEL x8)

Alexander Zverev (GER x2) v Dominic Thiem (AUT x7)

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