Nadal Learns Roland Garros Draw, Bottom Half Loaded
Bottom quarter a must-see for fans in first week
Rafael Nadal will begin his quest for an 11th Roland Garros title against Alexandr Dolgopolov, but all eyes in Paris will be on a loaded bottom half, which features Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov, 2015 titlist Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and 2016 champion Novak Djokovic.
In-form second seed Zverev, the winner of 16 of his past 18 matches (and an ATP World Tour Tour-leading 30-8 overall), will have to beat Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in his opener, with the prospect of a fourth-round clash against Wawrinka or Lucas Pouille. Thiem or Nishikori may then lie in wait for the recent BMW Open by FWU and Mutua Madrid Open champion in the quarter-finals.
World No. 8 Thiem, who has reached back-to-back Roland Garros semi-finals (2016-17), faces a qualifier, but may play Nishikori in the fourth round. Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist Nishikori faces French wild card Maxime Janvier in the first round, while former World No 3 Wawrinka, who was in action this week at the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open, challenges Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain.
Former World No. 1 Djokovic, who is currently No. 22 in the ATP Rankings, starts against a qualifier, but could face fourth seed Dimitrov in the fourth round. The Serbian star, who underwent elbow surgery following the Australian Open in January, last week showed flashes of a return to peak form in losing to Nadal in the Rome semi-finals. Djokovic has a 59-12 record at the Paris major. Dimitrov, who is 16-10 in 2018 and has reached the Roland Garros third round on two previous occasions, starts against Viktor Troicki of Serbia.
World No. 1 Nadal has a 7-2 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against his first-round Ukrainian opponent Dolgopolov and could potentially meet Canadian Denis Shapovalov or American Jack Sock in the fourth round, prior to a potential quarter-final against sixth seed Kevin Anderson – who opens against Paolo Lorenzi of Italy. Nadal has suffered just two losses in 81 matches at the clay-court Grand Slam championship – to Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and to Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals.
The Spanish superstar has a 19-1 clay-court record this year (23-2 overall), which includes 11th titles at both Monte-Carlo (d. Nishikori) and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Tsitsipas), in addition to an eighth crown at last week’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia (d. A. Zverev).
World No. 4 Marin Cilic, who reached last year’s quarter-finals and is 18-8 in 2018, features in the second quarter of the draw alongside 2009 semi-finalist Juan Martin del Potro. Cilic, who advanced to his first clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final last week in Rome, plays Australia’s James Duckworth and may face Fabio Fognini of Italy or Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund in the fourth round.
Del Potro, who is recovering from a left leg injury, meets France’s Nicolas Mahut and could potentially meeting 2010 semi-finalist Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the fourth round. Del Potro went on a 15-match winning streak earlier this year (23-6 overall), including titles at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC (d. Anderson) and his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown at the BNP Paribas Open (d. Federer).
The 2018 Roland Garros draw ceremony was held at L’Orangerie, located in the botanical gardens of the site, featuring Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, three-time world figure skating champions (2015, 2016 and 2018) and winners of the silver medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang.