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2020 French Open: Draw analysis and predictions

Roar Guru
25th September, 2020
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Roar Guru
25th September, 2020
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The men’s and women’s singles draws for the 2020 French Open have been released, and despite the absence of so many star players due to travel concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still some matches that will be worth watching later on in this tournament.

As always, I start on the men’s side of things, where Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the top two seeds and as is convention are kept apart until the championship match.

Fourth seed Daniil Medvedev and reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem have also been kept apart from each other until the final, and have been assigned to Djokovic and Nadal’s halves of the draw respectively.

Djokovic, who is attempting to complete a career grand slam, will kick off his bid for an 18th major title with a first round match against Swede Mikael Ymer, and isn’t expected to be threatened until the fourth round where he could face 15th seed Karen Khachanov.

The 33-year-old could then find himself lined up against a formidable opponent in the quarter-finals, ranging from seventh seed Matteo Berrettini to tenth seed Roberto Bautista Agut and 17th seed Pablo Carreno Busta.

If it is Carreno Busta that reaches the final eight from the second section of the draw, then it would be a rematch of that controversial US Open fourth round match that never was, whereby Djokovic was defaulted after dropping serve in the 11th game of the first set.

Australian John Millman is also in this quarter of the draw, as is French veteran Richard Gasquet. They are up against Carreno Busta and Bautista Agut in their respective first round matches.

Djokovic’s biggest threat in his half of the draw comes in the form of Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev, whose first match is against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.

Novak Djokovic plays a backhand

(Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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The 24-year-old is projected to face compatriot Andrey Rublev in the round of 16, which is a round earlier than their previous meeting, which was in the quarter-finals at the US Open earlier this month.

All going well, Medvedev could then find himself lined up against fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals. The 22-year-old Greek star is up against Spaniard Jaume Munar in his first match.

The reigning ATP Finals champion could then face a potentially tricky obstacle in the fourth round, where Canadian ninth seed Denis Shapovalov or former world number three Grigor Dimitrov could await.

Turning over the page now, where in the fifth section eighth seed and local favourite Gael Monfils will begin with a first round clash with Kazakh Alexander Bublik.

The 2008 semi-finalist is seeded to face American 27th seed Taylor Fritz in the third round, and either Borna Coric or 12th seed and recent Rome Masters finalist Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round.

But the match to watch in the third quarter of the draw is that between 16th seed and 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka and wildcard entrant Andy Murray.

For Murray, it will be his first match at Roland Garros since he lost a brutal five-set semi-final clash against the Lausanne native, after which he suffered a range of serious injuries that very nearly saw him retire from the sport in 2019.

But to his credit, the Scot has managed to delay retirement, playing mostly doubles before getting some singles play under his belt in the second half of last year.

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Wawrinka, meantime, will contest his first major since the Australian Open after opting to bypass the US Open due to health and safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also in this section of the draw, recently minted US Open champion Dominic Thiem faces a potentially tricky first round clash against Marin Cilic, in what will be a rematch of their third round encounter from Flushing Meadows.

Dominic Thiem of Austria

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

This therefore has the potential to create a blockbuster fourth round clash between either of Wawrinka or Murray and Cilic or Thiem.

Further down the draw, sixth seed Alexander Zverev begins his bid for grand slam redemption when he comes up against Austria’s Dennis Novak.

He is projected to face Australian 25th seed Alex de Minaur, who is up against a qualifier in his first match, in the third round, and seventh seed David Goffin in the last 16.

As always at Roland Garros, there is one major colossus for 127 men to overcome and that is the undisputed King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, who will be shooting for a 13th French Open crown.

The Spaniard faces little-known Belarusian Egor Gerasimov in his opening match, and isn’t expected to be threatened until at least the quarter-finals, though he could face Italian 14th seed Fabio Fognini in the last 16.

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It was Fognini who came from two sets to love down to upend the Spaniard at the 2015 US Open, becoming the first (and so far only) man to recover from a two-set deficit to defeat Nadal at a major.

The 34-year-old is then projected to face Alexander Zverev in the last eight.

Without any major upsets, the quarter-finals onward are projected to look like this:

Quarter-finals
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs [7] Matteo Berrettini (ITA)
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs [5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
[8] Gael Monfils (FRA) vs [3] Dominic Thiem (AUT)
[6] Alexander Zverev (GER) vs [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Semi-finals
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs [4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) vs [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

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

Now I switch over to the women’s side of the draw, where new title favourite Simona Halep and second seed Karolina Pliskova have been kept apart from each other, meaning they won’t face off until the championship match.

Halep could face a rematch against American upstart Amanda Anisimova in the third round, after the teenager put a stunning end to the Romanian’s 2018 title defence in the quarter-finals last year.

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Before that can happen, though, Halep will begin her chase for a second French Open title against Sara Sorribes Tormo while Anisimova is up against Tamara Korpatsch in her opener.

Last year’s beaten finalist, Marketa Vondrousova, former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard and Australia’s Daria Gavrilova, who has a protected ranking, are also all in this part of the draw.

Eugenie Bouchard

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Vondrousova, the 15th seed, is up against Polish upstart Iga Swiatek in her first match and is projected to face Halep in the fourth round.

All going well, Halep could face one of Kiki Bertens, Johanna Konta, Maria Sakkari or 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter-finals.

Konta, the ninth seed and a semi-finalist last year, faces a potentially tricky opening match against American teen sensation Coco Gauff, and is projected to face Sakkari, who reached the fourth round at the US Open, in the third round.

Kuznetsova and Bertens are projected to face each other in round three, but the former faces compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is unseeded, in her opening match.

Australian Ajla Tomljanovic is also in this part of the draw and has drawn Sakkari has her first opponent.

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The second quarter of the draw is led by Ukrainian third seed, and 2010 girls’ champion, Elina Svitolina, who begins against Varvara Gracheva and is seeded to face Ekaterina Alexandrova in the third round.

A potentially dangerous opponent for her in the fourth round is 16th seed Elise Mertens, who recently reached the quarter-finals in New York where she was heavily beaten by Victoria Azarenka. Her first opponent is Russian Margarita Gasparyan.

Speaking of Azarenka, the Belarusian, who is seeded tenth, could face Venus Williams in the second round if she gets past Danka Kovinic in her opening round match.

The 31-year-old could also line up another showdown against Serena Williams should both players advance to the round of 16. Serena, for her part, could face Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round, only a few weeks after they met in the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows.

Moving further down the draw now, where sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka will look to better her second round performance last year when she comes up against Jessica Pegula in her opening match.

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The 22-year-old Belarusian is then projected to face 30th seed Ons Jabeur in the third round, and then former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the last 16.

The Spaniard, who is seeded 11th, could face Karolina Pliskova’s twin sister Kristyna in the second round, and recent US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady in the third round.

Whichever player reaches the quarter-finals from section five is likely to strike fourth seed Sofia Kenin, who arrives at Roland Garros with her tail between her legs after copping a double bagel from Victoria Azarenka in Rome last week.

Sofia Kenin

(Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Kenin is up against Russian Liudmila Samsonova in her first match, with 26th seed Donna Vekic expected to await in the third round. Beyond that is a likely fourth round engagement with 14th seed Elena Rybakina.

In section seven, seventh seed Petra Kvitova begins with a clash against American Oceane Dodin, with a potential fourth round clash against either Angelique Kerber or Madison Keys set to await the Czech should she get that far.

Kerber, who is aiming to join the likes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in having won all four majors, is up against Kaja Juvan in her first match while Keys, a quarter-finalist last year, faces Zhang Shuai. The two are projected to face each other in the third round.

Expected to await in the quarter-finals is second seed Karolina Pliskova, who faces either a qualifier or a lucky loser in her opening match.

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Pliskova, who has gone five consecutive majors without reaching the quarter-finals, could then face 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko, 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens and 13th seed Petra Martic, to whom she lost in the third round last year, in that order afterwards.

Without any major upsets, the quarter-finals onward are projected to look like this.

Quarter-finals
[1] Simona Halep (ROU) vs [5] Kiki Bertens (NED)
[3] Elina Svitolina (UKR) vs [6] Serena Williams (USA)
[8] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) vs [4] Sofia Kenin (USA)
[7] Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs [2] Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Semi-finals
[1] Simona Halep (ROU) vs [6] Serena Williams (USA)
[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) vs [2] Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Predicted championship outcome
[1] Simona Halep (ROU) defeats [2] Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Play gets underway tomorrow evening (AEST).