Fate or fate sometimes makes sacred winks. The last time he stepped on the clay court at Roland Garros three years ago, Andy Murray, then world number 1, lost to Stan Wawrinka after a Homeric semi-final. Thursday, the drawing of the large table brought together the two men from the 1st round of the 2020 edition. In addition, it is Rafael Nadal, triple defending champion and 12 times champion in Paris, who inherited from Dominic Thiem, everything recent winner of the US Open, in his draw. Finalists of the last two editions, the Spaniard and the Austrian, could therefore find themselves a round earlier this time, in the semi-final.
Novak Djokovic, he can consider the quest for a second title on the side of the Porte d’Auteuil more serenely. If we rely on the forces present on paper, the world number 1 will have time to gain momentum, with a possible first test against Hubert Hurkacz in the third round. Rid of the prospect of seeing Thiem stand up against him in the last four like last year, he could have to chain Karen Khachanov, Matteo Berrettini and Stéfanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev in the eighth, quarter then semi-final. But given the Russian’s lack of appetite for clay and the Greek’s recent Grand Slam difficulties, caution is needed and the course of the Serbian, who has lost only once this season, until the final could even be more clear.
Thiem, a journey strewn with pitfalls
In the lower part of the picture, Thiem was therefore not spared on his side. While he has not played the slightest preparation tournament on clay, the Austrian will have to be very solid from the start since a delicate first round against Marin Cilic awaits him. The confidence gleaned after his 1st Grand Slam title at the US Open will be essential to get off to a good start against an opponent he has also beaten at Flushing. If logic is followed, he will then face the giant Reilly Opelka, always difficult to play, before finding Casper Ruud, semi-finalist in Rome, possibly in the third round. The theoretical continuation? An eighth-shock against Wawrinka and Gaël Monfils in quarter. All that to arrive only in half face to the ogre of the ocher.
Nadal, precisely, was rather spared before this meeting of the titans. The first two laps promise to be a formality for the Mallorcan and it is difficult to see Daniel Evans or Kei Nishikori, far from his best level after his elbow surgery, putting him in difficulty in 3rd. Same story for Fabio Fognini, his first theoretical opponent in the second week, unless John Isner faces him. Serious things could therefore only start for him in the quarter against Alexander Zverev, a finalist in the US Open and now more consistent in the Grand Slam.
An entry test for Monfils, Raonic package
On the French side, it will be very hard for Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Grégoire Barrière, respectively opposing entry to Roberto Bautista Agut, Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov. Ugo Humbert, Jérémy Chardy, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Corentin Moutet will face qualifiers in the 1st round, a less difficult but dangerous challenge facing opponents who will already have matches behind them. Then difficult for them to see much further than the second round where they could cross swords respectively with Cristian Garin, Borna Coric, Zverev and Diego Schwartzman. The Argentinian, finalist in Rome, has a good head of executioner of the tricolor clan since he will be opposed to Gaël Monfils in eighth if the logic is respected.
But the Parisian will have to raise his level compared to these last outings in his first match against the fantastic and talented Alexander Bublik. Finally, there remains the case of Benoît Paire. It is not yet known whether the Avignon resident will actually be able to play because of the risks of testing positive for the coronavirus, but the fate has been more lenient with him. If he was in a decent state of form, he could consider a possible 3rd round against David Goffin. But probably his first round against the South Korean Soonwoo Kwon promises to be complicated. Finally, note that Milos Raonic, Kyle Edmund and Fernando Verdasco have withdrawn. There will therefore be 19 players from qualifying in the final table.
The 8th theory for men: