Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty Are Top Seeds at the French Open

Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty Are Top Seeds at the French Open

May 27, 2021

Rafael Nadal, the 13-time French Open champion who is seeking a fifth consecutive title at Roland Garros beginning Sunday, bears an ill-fitting label in the men’s singles draw this year: the No. 3 seed.

Nadal, whose indomitability on the clay in Paris has been all but inevitable, was placed into the top half of the draw, meaning that a match against top-seeded Novak Djokovic would come in the semifinals.

Nadal will be a heavy favorite in every match he plays at Roland Garros, where he has a 100-2 record, but his path to a 14th title does include some hurdles. If he beats 62nd-ranked Alexei Popyrin in the first round, Nadal will face a Frenchman, either the veteran Richard Gasquet or the wild card Hugo Gaston. Gaston, 20, made a surprise run to the fourth round of the French Open last year, beating Stan Wawrinka before losing in five sets to Dominic Thiem.

Nadal could face seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev, whom he lost to at the Monte Carlo Masters in April, in the quarterfinals before what would be a highly anticipated match against Djokovic in the semifinals.

Nadal beat Djokovic in the final of the Italian Open this month, and dominated to win, 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, in the previous French Open final in October. Djokovic has tilted their rivalry in his favor, 29-28, by not losing a match to Nadal on hardcourts or grass courts since the 2013 United States Open final, but Djokovic lost their last five meetings on clay.

Roger Federer, who has played only three matches this season after undergoing two knee operations last year, is seeded eighth and could face Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Daniil Medvedev could prove to be a shaky second seed, having won just one of his three matches on clay this year. A hardcourts specialist, Medvedev has lost in the first round of the French Open in his previous four appearances.

Medvedev faces Alexander Bublik in the first round, a player who, like Medvedev, is inclined to monologue moodily when things are not going his way.

The fourth-seeded Thiem, who won last year’s U.S. Open, is the only Grand Slam event champion in the bottom half of the draw. Thiem, a three-time French Open runner-up, will arrive in Paris having lost three of his last four matches.

Fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, a champion at the Monte Carlo Masters in April, is in Medvedev’s quarter of the draw; sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev, a champion at the Madrid Masters this month, is in Thiem’s quarter.

American men occupy the three lowest seedings in the draw, with the American Taylor Fritz seeded 30th, John Isner 31st and Reilly Opelka 32nd. Isner opens against another American, Sam Querrey.

No player in the women’s draw has built up a French Open track record close to Nadal’s, but two players who won their most recent appearances find themselves in the top half.

Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty, who won her lone Grand Slam event title at the French Open in 2019 but missed last fall’s edition of the tournament because of travel restrictions during the pandemic, is joined in the top half of the draw by the defending champion, Iga Swiatek, who is seeded eighth after winning the Italian Open title this month.

Barty opens against the American Bernarda Pera. She could also face a tricky test in the fourth round, against either 13th-seeded Jennifer Brady, the Australian Open runner-up in February, or 17-year-old Coco Gauff, who is seeded 24th after winning her second career title last week in Parma, Italy.

Swiatek, who opens against her close friend Kaja Juvan, could face 2016 French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza in the fourth round. In the quarterfinals, Swiatek could see fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin in a rematch of last year’s final, though Kenin has struggled this season and has a difficult opening round test against the 2017 champion, Jelena Ostapenko.

Serena Williams, seeded seventh, is on the bottom half of the draw, along with second-seeded Naomi Osaka. Williams and Osaka were dealt favorable draws, but neither has produced a strong result on clay this year. Each is 1-2 on the surface.

Williams, who is seeking her 24th Grand Slam event title, opens against the 74th-ranked veteran Irina-Camelia Begu.

Osaka announced on Wednesday that she would not participate in news conferences at the tournament, writing, “I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.” Though her confidence may be low from playing poorly on clay, her draw at the French Open proved favorable. She opens against 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig, and then will face either 102nd-ranked Ana Bogdan or a qualifier in the second round. The only seeded player Osaka could play in the first week of the tournament, 27th-seeded Alison Riske, has not won a match since August.

Aryna Sabalenka, seeded third, and Bianca Andreescu, seeded sixth, join Williams and Osaka on the bottom half of the draw.

As is often the case, there are many high-profile women’s matches in the first round, including 10th-seeded Belinda Bencic against last year’s surprise semifinalist, Nadia Podoroska, and 15th-seeded Victoria Azarenka against the 2009 champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Sloane Stephens, the 2018 runner-up, will open against Carla Suárez Navarro, the Spanish veteran who is returning to competition after overcoming Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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