Day 2 Preview: Nadal & Djokovic Aim For Fast Start In Paris

  • Posted: May 22, 2022

Day 2 Preview: Nadal & Djokovic Aim For Fast Start In Paris

2015 champ Wawrinka faces home wild card Moutet

Rafael Nadal begins his bid for a 14th Roland Garros crown and two-time winner Novak Djokovic kicks off his title defence on Monday in Paris. The first-round action at the second Grand Slam of the season will also see Stan Wawrinka, Reilly Opelka and Cameron Norrie take to the clay. looks at some of the matches to watch on Day 2 in the French capital.

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[5] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Jordan Thompson (AUS)

Nadal opens his campaign for a record-extending 14th title at Roland Garros with a second ATP Head2Head meeting against Australian Jordan Thompson. The Spaniard’s chronic foot injury impacted him in his defeat to Denis Shapovalov in Rome nine days ago, but the 35-year-old is not worried about it causing an issue as he chases a fourth title and second Grand Slam crown of 2022.

“It is something that I live with every day, so is nothing new for me and is not a big surprise,” said the Spaniard in his pre-tournament press conference. “I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros. If I don’t believe that this thing can happen, probably I would not be here.”

World No. 82 Thompson is 7-10 for the year, with his best run a quarter-final appearance on the hard courts in Dallas. The Australian, who has reached the second round in Paris twice in six main draw appearances, is searching for his second win on clay this year. A first-round win in Houston over Steven Diez is his only triumph on the surface in 2022.

Nadal and Thompson’s previous meeting also took place in the French capital, with the lefty running out a straight-sets winner at the 2020 Rolex Paris Masters. Can Nadal pass the Thompson test once again in Paris?

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[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN)

World No. 1 Djokovic was back to his resolute best in Rome as he stormed to a record-extending 38th ATP Masters 1000 crown in the Italian capital, his first title of 2022. The defending champion arrives at Roland Garros full of belief as he prepares to take on Yishihito Nishioka in the first round.

“I feel I am always in contention to fight for any Grand Slam trophy,” said Djokovic in his pre-tournament press conference as he attempts to draw level with Nadal’s 21-Grand Slam tally. “I believe in my own abilities to get far and to fight for one of the most prestigious trophies in the world of tennis.

“As a defending champion of course more so, to believe I can do it again. Reliving the memories from last year is something that obviously gives me goosebumps and motivation to try to replicate that.”

Djokovic’s first opponent, Nishioka, has won his opening match at Roland Garros in each of the past three years, including a four-set win over home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2021. The World No. 99 is yet to win a tour-level main draw match on clay this year, however, and he has not won a set in two previous meetings with Djokovic, at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals and the 2020 Australian Open.

The pair follow Nadal and Thompson on Monday’s schedule for Court Phillipe Chatrier, the scene of Djokovic’s epic five-set comeback win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in last year’s championship match. The top seed is looking to extend an 81-15 winning record in Paris, where he also lifted the trophy in 2016. 

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs. [WC] Corentin Moutet (FRA)

Stan Wawrinka and home wild card Corentin Moutet clash on Court Suzanne Lenglen in a meeting between two of the Tour’s sublime shotmakers.

The 2015 champion Wawrinka notched his first tour-level wins in 15 months by beating Reilly Opelka and Laslo Djere in Rome, and he will be eager to build on that progress after returning from a foot injury. It is Moutet who leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series, however, with the Frenchman claiming a three-set victory in their only previous meeting in the 2020 Doha semi-finals.

The 23-year-old lefty dropped outside the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in January, but on his day is capable of competing with the best on Tour. His clash with Wawrinka will be his first tour-level match on clay since he lost in the first round in Umag last July. The Frenchman will need to bring his best to stop Wawrinka at an event where the Swiss star holds a 44-15 match record.

Also In Action

Five Frenchmen besides Moutet also kick off their Roland Garros runs on Monday. The most experienced of them is former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet, who will hope to build on his run to the semi-finals in Geneva last week, which included a straight-sets win over Daniil Medvedev. The 35-year-old meets South African Lloyd Harris. Benoit Paire, the former World No. 18, will play Ilya Ivashka.

Cameron Norrie starts his campaign in Paris against French wild card Manuel Guinard. The 10th-seeded Briton has never been past the third round at Roland Garros, but arrives this week as a tour-level titlist on clay, having sealed his maiden crown on the surface in Lyon on Saturday.

Norrie’s countryman Daniel Evans, the 29th seed, is also in action as he faces off against Miami semi-finalist Francisco Cerundolo, while Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz, the 13th seed, also plays an Argentine: qualifier Santiago Fa Rodriguez Taverna.

Fritz is one of seven Americans in action on Monday. That group also includes 17th seed Reilly Opelka, who faces Filip Krajinovic, and 27th seed Sebastian Korda, who will take on John Millman. Tommy Paul, the 30th seed, faces a tough clay-court examination when he meets Cristian Garin, whose five ATP Tour titles have all come on the surface.

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