Paris, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- Dominic Thiem could be headed for a blockbuster semifinal showdown against Spanish great Rafael Nadal at the French Open after being drawn here Thursday in the same half of the draw as the 12-time champion.
Fresh off capturing his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open earlier this month, the Austrian will be trying to become the first male player in the more than 50-year history of the Open Era to win his first two major titles in back-to-back events.
But he will have to navigate a potentially tricky road to do so.
Thiem will square off in the first round against big-serving Croatian Marin Cilic, who was one of just two players (runner-up Alexander Zverev) to win a set against the Austrian at Flushing Meadows but has never been a serious threat on clay.
He could face Norway’s Casper Ruud, one of tennis’ most promising young clay-court players, in the third round; either 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka or 2016 runner-up Andy Murray in the round of 16; and eighth-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils or 12th-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals.
Wawrinka and Murray will clash in one of the most anticipated first-round match-ups at Roland Garros, which kicks off on Sunday.
Nadal will take on Belarusian Egor Gerasimov in the first round and appears to have an easier path to the semifinals than Thiem, although both Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Italy’s Fabio Fognini have posed problems for Nadal in the past and are potential third- and fourth-round opponents, respectively.
If the Spaniard reaches the French Open quarterfinals for the 14th time in his illustrious career, his most likely opponent would be sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev or 11th-seeded Belgian David Goffin.
Nadal, who has fewer matches than usual under his belt coming into his favorite event due to the coronavirus pandemic, could tie Roger Federer’s record of 20 men’s singles Grand Slam titles by winning the tournament.
Serbian world No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic, who is seeking his 18th major title, also is one of the top favorites along with Nadal and Thiem.
He will face Sweden’s Mikael Ymer in the first round and will likely be the heavy favorite in every match leading up to a potential berth in the Oct. 11 final.
The highest-ranked players in Djokovic’s half of the draw – and his mostly likely semifinal opponent – are fourth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev, who has enjoyed most of his success to date on hard courts; and Greek No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
In women’s singles, Australian defending champion and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty has not made the trip to Paris, citing coronavirus-related health risks and her inability to train with her coach in recent months.
Romanian top seed Simona Halep, who won Roland Garros in 2018, is the pre-tournament favorite and will start her campaign with a contest against Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo.
Big-hitting 25th-seeded American Amanda Anisimova, is a potential third-round opponent, while Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska or 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova could loom in the round of 16.
Should Halep advance to the quarterfinals, the United Kingdom’s Johanna Konta, American teenage phenom Cori Gauff, Greece’s Maria Sakkari, Russian 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova or fifth-seeded Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens are potential opponents.
Three-time champion Serena Williams is in Halep’s half of the draw but all eyes are on a potential fourth-round battle between the sixth-seeded American great, who is seeking a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, and in-form 2020 US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka, the No. 10 seed.
Azarenka stunned Williams in the semifinals of Flushing Meadows.
There is no clear favorite to emerge from the bottom half of the women’s singles draw, although Spanish No. 11 seed Garbiñe Muguruza, the 2016 Roland Garros champion, showed strong form at last week’s Italian Open and figures to be a factor this year in Paris.
Several players are seeded ahead of Muguruza in the bottom half of the draw, including eighth-seeded Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka; American 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, the No. 4 seed; Czech No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova; and second-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova.