Rafa Nadal in brutal French Open twist as Novak Djokovic edges closer to breaking drought

Nadal has drawn Alexander Zverev in the first round of the French Open.

Rafa Nadal has been handed a nightmare draw for what is most likely his farewell to the French Open, drawing World No.4 Alexander Zverev in the first round. As Nadal's draw was announced at Roland Garros on Thursday, an audible gasp filled the room, with the Spaniard's hopes of reaching at least the second round of his favourite grand slam made all the more difficult.

Nadal is yet to confirm whether he will take part in the French Open one last time after two injury-riddled seasons followed by an unconvincing return to action. But his name in the official draw suggests he's ready to go, however, he will be a massive underdog if he does take the court against Zverev.

Rafa Nadal pictured left and Novak Djokovic right
Rafa Nadal will face Alexander Zverev in the first round of the French Open while World No.1 Novak Djokovic closes in on his first title on 2024. Image: Getty

The World No.4 has been in fine form in 2024 and comes into the French Open on the back of winning the Italian Open title last week. In Rome, Zverev was at his scintillating best, while in the same tournament, Nadal's surgically repaired hip and 37-year-old legs were blown off the court in the third round by World No.9 Hubert Hurkacz 6-1 6-3.

The loss left Nadal so unsatisfied with his level of tennis that he cast doubt over whether he would even attempt to win his 15th Roland Garros title. The tennis great has been battling to get back into shape after making his long-awaited return from injury at Barcelona, where he lost in the second round to Alex de Minaur. He then competed at the Madrid Open where he suffered a gruelling defeat in the round of 16, before making the third round of the Italian Open.

Germany's Alexander Zverev  (L) and Spain's Rafael Nadal pose prior to their men's semi-final match on day 13 of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 3, 2022. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images)
Rafa Nadal will go toe-to-toe with Alexander Zverev in round one of the French Open.

De Minaur, the No.11 seed, has also received a less-than-ideal draw for the French Open. The Aussie will kick off his Roland Garros campaign against rising American teenager Alex Michelsen.

And from there, things only get tougher. If he gets past Michelson, he will likely face tough Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista-Agut in the second round, and then, most likely, the dangerously unpredictable Kazakh Alexander Bublik in the third.

While two of Australia's other top hopes, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alexei Popyrin, have been pitted against each other in the main draw. It is also a tough path for the two Australians in the women's singles, with Daria Saville and Ajla Tomljanovic both having first-round ties against seeded players.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic is closing in on his first title of 2024 after reaching the semi-finals of the Geneva Open. The World No.1 - who accepted a late wildcard to compete at the ATP 250 tournament ahead of defending his French Open title - got off to a rocky start in his quarter-final against Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor

Djokovic saved four set points from 0-40 down in the 10th game of the first set before breaking his opponent and going on to win the set 7-5. From there it was more routine for the Serb, who won the second set 6-1. Following the match Djokovic admitted that he needed a bit of luck to claw his way back into the match but felt that he was slowly getting back to his best.

"Great win. I thought that the first set could have gone his way easily because I think he was the better player for most of the first set," admitted Djokovic - who has been stuck on 98 singles titles since triumphing at last year's ATP Finals.


"He had three set points. I was facing 0-40 at 5-4 for him, so we could have been having a completely different direction of the match if he converted those set points. I was lucky to find some really good serves and from that moment onwards really played some good solid tennis. The second set was really good."

The 24-time grand slam winner will face Czech Tomas Machac in Friday's semi-finals. Following the Geneva Open, Djokovic will head to the French Open, where he will begin his title defence against French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

with AAP