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Tebbutt: Les jeux sont faits

May 19, 2022
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt

That headline is a French casino and gambling expression meaning all bids must be in before the action can start.

In the case of the 2022 French Open women’s and men’s draws it applies except for the fact that that there are still also qualifiers (up from the usual 16) to be placed in the draw after Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Clara Tauson withdrew among the women and Gael Monfils, Roberto Bautista Agut and Jan-Lennard Struff pulled out of the men’s event.

The big news from the draw, held at the L’Orangerie pavilion near Court Simone-Mathieu, was where would No. 5 seed and 13-time champion Rafael Nadal come out. As it happened (see picture at top), he is in the top quarter and is slated to face defending champion and No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. The last time that happened at Roland Garros was in 2015 when Djokovic defeated an out-of-form Nadal 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 and then went on to beat Andy Murray but lost to Stan Wawrinka in the final.

Wawrinka, 37 and struggling to find his best tennis as he returns after two left foot surgeries in 2021, is slated to play Nadal in the second round. Nadal takes on No. 82-ranked Jordan Thompson of Australia in his opening round.

Djokovic (above with French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton) begins his title defence against No. 94-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.

A French journalist exclaimed that the top quarter is ‘dingue’ (crazy) as the names were being revealed on a large video screen in the room.

Also in that top quarter is No. 9 seed Félix Auger-Aliassime. He starts out against a qualifier and would play Nadal in the round-of 16 if results went according to the seeding.

Lurking in the second quarter of the draw is Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz. He starts out against a qualifier and then could possibly have a third round against No. 27 seed Sebastian Korda, who beat him in Monte Carlo last month.

To get a shot at whomever comes out of the top quarter, the sixth-seeded Alcaraz might have to get through No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev.

The three biggest threats in the bottom half are No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev (above), returning from hernia surgery and never at his best on clay, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, last year’s runner-up but just not looking quite as convincing lately despite winning Monte Carlo last month, and No. 8 Casper Ruud, a fine player who’s excellent on clay but who may not quite have enough oomph to be a title threat.

All that should be good news for No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov, also in the bottom half of the draw, but he has drawn feisty Holger Rune in the first round. The just-turned 19-year-old, Dane, won the ATP 250 event in Munich this month and is 9-3 for the season on clay. Shapovalov is 4-2, with a memorable victory over an ailing Nadal in Rome last week.

Rune could be the main early hurdle for Shapovalov, playing his fourth Roland Garros with a 2-3 overall record, before a possible third round meeting with old junior rival and No. 19 seed, Alex de Minaur.

The highly-anticipated position in the draw for dangerous floater Bianca Andreescu turned out to be slightly anti-climactic in the very short term – but potentially highly intriguing in the longer run. She plays a qualifier out of the gate and then could meet No. 14 seed Belinda Bencic, who also faces a qualifier in the first round.

Andreescu famously won her only previous match with the 25-year-old Swiss, the 2020 Olympic gold medalist, 7-6(3), 7-5 in the 2019 US Open semi-finals on her way to the title.

In the third round, there could be an Canadian match-up between Andreescu and No. 17 seed Leylah Annie Fernandez, which would be a first all-Maple Leaf match-up for the pair.

Fernandez looks to have a good shot in her first round against No. 110 Kristina Mladenovic. The 29-year-old French woman had won just one match (in Madrid qualifying two weeks ago) in 2022 until she got through one round – against compatriot Tessah Andrianjafitrimo earlier this week in Rabat, Morocco.

Fernandez’s second-round opponent would be either No. 47 Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic or No. 70 Petra Martic of Croatia.

Late Friday afternoon, Andreescu practiced on Court 10 with Daria Kasatkina. In the morning, Auger-Aliassime hit with Grigor Dimitrov and then later had a session with his coach Fredéric Fontang.

The women’s draw, like the men’s, is somewhat unbalanced because top-seed Iga Swiatek has been so dominant recently and No. 2 seed and defending champion Barbora Krejcikova (above with new tournament director Amélie Mauresmo, Biathlon 2022 Olympic gold medalist Quentin Fillon Maillet and Moretton) has not played a match since Qatar in February due to an elbow problem.

The marquee match-up of the opening round for the women is No. 27 seed Amanda Anisimova against Naomi Osaka, whose participation has been in doubt as she recovers from an ankle issue that forced her to withdraw from the Italian Open last week.

The main draw for women’s and men’s singles matches starts on Sunday.

At 10 a.m. on Court 7 on Friday (4 a.m. ET in Canada), Rebecca Marino will attempt to win her ninth consecutive Grand Slam qualifying match in a row (three at the 2021 US Open, three at the 2022 Aussie Open and two already at Roland Garros) when she faces No. 223-ranked Seone Mendez of Australia.

On Thursday, Marino could be seen (above) strolling in the walkway behind Court Philippe Chatrier.

It’s a big match for both players – Marino is trying to play in her 11th Grand Slam event main draw (her second at the French Open), while the 23-year-old Mendez is hoping to make her debut on tennis’ grandest stages.