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The matches to watch at the French Open

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Roar Guru
24th May, 2019
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The men’s and women’s draws for the 2019 French Open have been released and it has the potential to produce some must-watch mouth-watering clashes over the next fortnight.

As the top two seeds in the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have been kept apart from each other until the final, while Roger Federer has been assigned to the latter’s side of the draw, meaning he could face his nemesis in the semi-finals should he get that far.

In the women’s draw, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova are the top two seeds, meaning they too cannot face each other until the final, while defending champion and third seed Simona Halep may have to face top seed Osaka if she reaches the semi-finals.

Novak Djokovic will begin his bid to complete a double career Grand Slam against Hubert Hurkacz in the first round.

The Serb could then face American Sam Querrey in the second round, with Frenchman Gilles Simon looming as his first seeded threat in the third round. Thirteenth seed Borna Coric is then likely to await the 32-year-old in the fourth round.

The second eighth of the draw is headlined by fifth seed Alexander Zverev, who faces Australian John Millman in his first match, and recent Monte Carlo Masters champion Fabio Fognini, who begins against countryman Andreas Seppi, who very nearly caused a major upset when he led world No.1 Djokovic by two sets to love at Roland Garros in 2012.

Much maligned Australians Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios are also in this section of the draw. Should the latter reach the third round, then Zverev is likely to await.

Nick Kyrgios

(Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Last year’s beaten finalist Dominic Thiem is the leading name in the second quarter of the draw and he will start against American wildcard Tommy Paul. He should not be threatened until the third round where he could face either Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund or local favourite Jeremy Chardy.

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Should he make it round four, then he is likely to face either another French showman in Gael Monfils or Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco, who are drawn to meet in the third round.

Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro is projected to await Thiem in the quarter-finals, provided both men get this far.

Del Potro, seeded eighth, starts against Chile’s Nicolas Jarry, and should not face any major opposition until the round of 16 where tenth seed Karen Khachanov is expected to await.

We now move to the bottom half of the draw, where sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas faces a potentially tricky opening round clash against Germany’s Maximilian Marterer, who stretched Rafael Nadal to a third set tiebreak in the fourth round last year.

The Greek star could then face American 32nd seed Frances Tiafoe in the third round and then one of 2015 champ Stan Wawrinka, 11th seed Marin Cilic or former Australian Open semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth.

Cilic and Dimitrov could meet in the second round, possibly for the right to face 24th seed Wawrinka in the third round.

Whichever of these players advances to the quarter-finals is likely to take on third seed Roger Federer, who returns to Roland Garros after a three-year absence.

The 2009 champion will start against little-known Italian Lorenzo Sonego, and could face a tricky third round opponent in Ernests Gulbis, who defeated him in 2014, before a possible fourth round clash against either Diego Schwartzman or last year’s semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato.

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Further down the draw, seventh seed Kei Nishikori could face local favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has a protected ranking, in the second round, provided he beats another home favourite in Quentin Halys in his first round match.

Twenty-first seed Alex de Minaur is also in this section of the draw and should he reach the third round, then Russian rival Daniil Medvedev is likely to await.

At the bottom of the draw, second seed and two-time defending champion Rafael Nadal will be expected to breeze through the early rounds, as he is drawn to face qualifiers in each of his first two matches.

Twenty-seventh seed David Goffin shapes as his first serious threat, while he is projected to face 15th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili – who he beat 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 at Roland Garros in 2017 – in the round of 16.

Barring any major upsets, these are the projected quarter-finals and semi-finals, and my predicted championship outcome.

Quarter-finals
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs [4] Alexander Zverev (GER)
[4] Dominic Thiem vs [8] Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
[6] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs [3] Roger Federer (SUI)
[7] Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Semi-finals
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs [4] Dominic Thiem (AUT)
[3] Roger Federer (SUI) vs [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Predicted championship outcome
[2] Rafael Nadal defeats [1] Novak Djokovic (SRB)

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We now swing over to the women’s draw, where Naomi Osaka’s bid for a third consecutive Grand Slam title could face an early roadblock. After opening against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, she will then face the winner of the clash between 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko and former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka.

But that is not all – the 21-year-old could then face rising Greek start Maria Sakkari in the third round, and then former US Open finalist Madison Keys in the fourth.

Also included in a packed top quarter of the draw is tenth seed Serena Williams, who will be aiming for a quadruple Grand Slam as well as the chance to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

Serena Williams plays at the French Open.

(AP Photo/Christophe Ena )

Her major seeded obstacles are 22nd-ranked Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who upset Angelique Kerber to win her maiden career title at Indian Wells in March, and eighth-seeded Australian Ashleigh Barty, who broke through for her biggest career title in Miami, also in March.

Another Australian, Ajla Tomljanovic, has drawn the short straw, fixtured to face defending champion and third seed Simona Halep in her first match.

Also in this quarter of the draw is another Australian import in Daria Gavrilova, who will face either Eugenie Bouchard or Lesia Tsurenko in the second round if she beats Serb Aleksandra Krunic in her opening match.

Halep – who risks dropping out of the top ten for the first time in over five years with an early loss – should not face any major opposition until the quarter-finals where she is projected to face dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

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Kvitova has copped a potentially tricky first-up clash against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, who a decade ago upset Jelena Jankovic to reach her first and only major quarter-final at Roland Garros.

The Czech’s tough path doesn’t end there – she could then face former world No.2 Vera Zvonareva in the second round, 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur in the third round and then 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in the round of 16.

Sabalenka, for her part, also has a tough draw – after drawing former WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, the 11th seed could then face young American Amanda Anisimova – who handed her a straight-sets humiliation at the Australian Open in January – in the second round.

In a packed fifth section of the draw, seventh seed Sloane Stephens, 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza and ninth seed Elina Svitolina are the names to watch.

Stephens starts against Japan’s Misaki Doi and should not be threatened until the fourth round where one of Muguruza or Svitolina – who are projected to meet each other in the third round – is likely to await.

Svitolina has a tough ask first up, facing Venus Williams in her first match, while Muguruza is up against another American, Taylor Townsend, in her opening match.

Further down the draw, fourth seed Kiki Bertens opens against local hope Pauline Parmentier and could then face a rematch against Johanna Konta, who defeated her in three sets in the semi-finals in Rome last week, in the third round.

The 28-year-old has done well to climb back up the rankings after a lacklustre past 12 months and her bid to break her Roland Garros duck has been helped by a first-round clash against a qualifier.

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Fifteenth seed Belinda Bencic and 26th seed Donna Vekic are also in this part of the draw and they are projected to face off in the third round.

The bottom quarter of the draw is packed with big names, among them fifth seed Angelique Kerber going for a career Grand Slam, 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and recent Rome champion Karolina Pliskova.

Kerber is up against Anastasia Potapova in her first match and the only real obstacles she must face before a possible quarter-final showdown against Pliskova are 28th seed Carla Suarez Navarro and 12th seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Pliskova, meanwhile, has drawn American Madison Brengle in her first match but could then strike Kuznetsova – who starts against a qualifier – in the second round and then 13th-seed Wozniacki or 18th seeded German Julia Goerges in the fourth.

Barring any major upsets, these are the projected quarter-finals and semi-finals, and my predicted championship outcome.

Quarter-finals
[1] Naomi Osaka (JPN) vs [10] Serena Williams (USA)
[3] Simona Halep (ROU) vs [8] Petra Kvitova (CZE)
[7] Sloane Stephens (USA) vs [4] Kiki Bertens (NED)
[5] Angelique Kerber (GER) vs [2] Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Semi-finals
[1] Naomi Osaka (JPN) vs [3] Simona Halep (ROU)
[7] Sloane Stephens (USA) vs [2] Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Predicted championship outcome
[1] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeats [2] Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

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Play gets underway on Sunday 26 May.