Roland-Garros Draws Filled With Mystery, History, Intrigue And Misery, Too

Roland-Garros draw ceremony (photo: Roland-Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 24, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Thursday’s 2024 Roland-Garros men’s and women’s singles draw ceremony at L’Oragerie d’Auteuil on the Stade Roland-Garros grounds, was filled with plenty of mystery, history and intrigue – and, for some players, misery, too.

By the end of the colorful, 50-minute Tirage Au Sort, which included an appearance by and interview with three-time French Open women’s champion Iga Swiatek of Poland, there were many emerging storylines to whet everyone’s appetite, which undoubtedly will be sorted out over the Parisian fortnight starting Sunday in Paris.

On the men’s side, defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who has not won a title in 2024, and 14-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal of Spain, who enters this year unseeded (ranked 276th but entered with a protected ranking) and is likely making his final Roland-Garros appearance, are in the same half of the draw. They can only meet in the semifinals.

Djokovic and Nadal have met 59 times – including three previous times in the Roland-Garros title match – but don’t count on it happening this year. That’s not only baffling but also a gut punch to tennis fans at the same time considering that Nadal, who has created so much history in Paris and even has a statue on the Stade Roland-Garros grounds erected in his honor, may not even make it out of the first round.

The 37-year-old Nadal, whose career win-loss record at the clay-court major is 112-3 record, drew World No. 4 and fourth seed Alexander Zverev in a rematch of their 2022 French Open semifinal. Zverev, 27, is arguably the toughest opponent Nadal could have drawn. The German just won the Rome Masters last weekend and pushed Nadal to the brink two years ago before shattering his ankle. Nadal would go on to win the 2022 Roland-Garros crown, his last Grand Slam title to date.

Predictably, a gasp of surprise – sorrow, maybe? – permeated through the audience when the pairing was made. Win or lose, Nadal, who missed last year’s tournament for the first time in 19 years due to injury, will go down as the greatest floater in the Open Era of tennis.

David Law, co-host of The Tennis Podcast, attended the draw. In the podcast’s episode on the Roland-Garros draw, which dropped Thursday evening, Law described the moment this way: “Shock was the sound you heard, I think, because Nadal has meant such an awful lot to the tournament – the relationship between him and it and the people around it – and everybody knows this is the end,” he said. “On paper, what you’ve ended up with is the worst possible scenario for Nadal.”

Meanwhile, World No. 1 Djokovic, a three-time Roland-Garros champion who just celebrated his 37th birthday this week while competing in Geneva, will open against French wild card Pierre-Hugues Herbert. He could meet No. 7 seed Casper Ruud of Norway in the quarterfinals.

Also, the upper half of the men’s draw includes: No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, No. 11 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, No. 12 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States and No. 13 seed Holger Rune of Denmark.

World No. 2 Jannik Sinner of Italy, who withdrew from Madrid citing a hip injury and skipped Rome to allow extra time to heal, anchors the bottom half of the draw. He will begin with 43rd-ranked American Christopher Eubanks, while third seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain plays a qualifier or lucky loser in the first round. Sinner could face No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland in the quarterfinals and Alcaraz in the semifinals.

Also, the bottom half of the men’s draw includes: No. 6 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 9 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 10 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and No. 15 seed Ben Shelton of the United States. Rublev won the title at Madrid and Tsitsipas raised the trophy at Monte-Carlo earlier in the European spring clay season and pose as threats.

Besides Nadal-Zverev, among the most intriguing first round matches is one which pair 2015 Rolamd-Garros champion Stan Wawrinka, 39, of Switzerland against three-time major champion Andy Murray, 37, of Great Britain. Other notable first-round clashes: Gaël Monfils of France versus Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil, Rune versus Daniel Evans of Great Britain, Nicolas Jarry of Chile versus Corentin Moutet of France, and Shelton versus Hugo Gaston of France.

Swiatek goes after Parisian three-peat and fourth Roland-Garros crown

Much of the focus on the women’s side will be on World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who is seeded first and will be chasing after a Paris three-peat (last accomplished by Justine Henin from 2005-07) and her fourth French Open crown overall. Without a doubt, the 22-year-old Polish star been the hottest player in women’s tennis after winning consecutive WTA 1000 titles in Madrid and Rome to go along with earlier 1000 crowns at Indian Wells and Doha.  She looks ready for more success.

“Honestly, I love this place and I’m always excited to come back,” Swiatek said on stage during a draw ceremony interview. “It feels like home. … I already feel Parisian. It’s alive. I’m happy to be here.”

Swiatek will face a qualifier or lucky loser in the opening round and could meet Japan’s Naomi Osaka in the second round. Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, the 2021 champion, looms as a fourth-round challenge for Swiatek and she could get No. 5 seed Marketa Vondrousova, also of the Czech Republic, as a quarterfinal opponent.

Other top seeds in Swiatek’s upper half of the draw include: No. 3 Coco Gauff of the United States, No. 8 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, No. 9 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and No. 11 Danielle Collins of the United States.

World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who won this year’s Australian Open and finished runner-up to Swiatek at Madrid and Rome earlier this month, is seeded second and begins with 101st-ranked Russian teenager Erika Andreeva. She could face either No. 6 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece or No. 10 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the quarterfinals.

Other top seeds in Sabalenka’s lower half of the draw include: No. 4 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, No. 7 Zheng Qinwen of China, No. 12 Jasmine Paolini of Italy and No. 14 Madison Keys of the United States.

Among the notable first-round matches are: Katie Boulter of Great Britain versus Paula Badosa of Spain, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine versus Katerina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil versus Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy and Zheng versus Alizé Cornet of France, who will retire after this year’s French Open.


World No. 5 Jessica Pegula of the United States, a 2022 Roland-Garros quarterfinalist whom has not played on clay this season, withdrew prior to Thursday’s draw. “I’m just about back to practicing normal [haven’t had any issues for weeks] but played it super safe with recovery & return to play,” she posted on Instagram Thursday. “If I had another 5-7 days, I would have been there 100%. So I will definitely be back for a full grass season and the rest of the summer and grinding out the rest of the year.”

On the men’s side, Matteo Berrettini of Italy, whose 2024 season has been hobbled by injuries and limited him to just four tournament appearances, also withdrew.