World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz faces a tough path to a maiden French Open title after being placed in the same half of the draw as 22-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic on Thursday.
In the absence of 14-time winner and defending champion Rafael Nadal, who will miss the claycourt major through injury, all eyes are on Djokovic and Alcaraz.
The 20-year-old Alcaraz, who will play a qualifier in the opening round, could face some treacherous match-ups en route to a potential semi-final against world No.3 Djokovic with 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, Lorenzo Musetti and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the top quarter of the draw.
Djokovic, who starts against Aleksandar Kovacevic, has a seemingly smooth journey to the last four with Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev his main threat.
World No.2 Daniil Medvedev, who plays a qualifier in the first round, is in the lower part of the draw and could face either last year’s runner-up Casper Ruud or Norway’s Holger Rune.
Sixth seed Rune won the Munich title on clay this season and reached the final in Monte Carlo and Rome, losing to Medvedev in the Italian capital.
“It’s going to be an emotional edition of the French Open after (tournament director) Amelie Mauresmo received a call from Rafael Nadal saying he could not take part in the tournament,” French federation president Gilles Moretton said.
“It will also be emotional because it marks the 40th anniversary of Yannick Noah’s triumph at Roland Garros.”
No French man has won the singles’ title since 1983 and it would take a miracle to see one of them lift the Musketeers Cup on June 11.
Easy opener for Iga
In the women’s draw, defending champion and world No.1 Iga Swiatek will start against Cristina Bucsa, the world No. 67.
She faces a potential quarter-final clash against Coco Gauff, the American she beat in last year’s final.
Swiatek, who retired in Rome with a thigh injury, has already started practising at Roland Garros this week.
Anhelina Kalinina, who reached the final in Rome earlier this month, could stand in Gauff’s way in the third round.
French hopes will rest on the shoulders of fifth seed Caroline Garcia, who is on a quarter-final collision course with second seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Belarusian Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, beat Swiatek in the final of the Madrid Open last month.
Rome champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan is expected to have a smooth run to the last eight, where she could face Tunisian seventh seed Ons Jabeur.
Paula Badosa will miss the French Open after suffering a stress fracture in her spine at the Italian Open last week, the former world No. 2 said on Thursday.
The 25-year-old Badosa, who was ranked second a year ago, has dropped to 29th amid an injury-ridden season. The Spaniard was knocked out in the quarter-finals in Rome.
“Just when everything seemed to be fine again, I received bad news just before starting a grand slam. At the tournament in Rome I suffered a stress fracture in my spine,” she said in a statement.
“It has been very hard news after such a difficult start of the season with injuries. This is going to keep me out of competition for some weeks.”
Badosa also missed the Australian Open in January due to a thigh injury sustained in a tune-up tournament in Adelaide.