Rafael Nadal handed brutal first-round draw at French Open

Rafael Nadal faces Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros  (AP)
Rafael Nadal faces Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros (AP)

Rafael Nadal faces a blockbuster men’s singles first-round clash in his final French Open as he faces Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros.

Former world No 1 Nadal is bidding for his 15th men’s singles title at Roland Garros but could hardly have asked for a tougher draw against the German fourth seed, who has reached the semi-finals in each of the last three years.

The last time the pair played was the second of those semi-finals at the 2022 French Open, when Zverev was forced to withdraw trailing 7-6, 6-6 when he badly twisted his right ankle and left the court in a wheelchair. Nadal would go on to win his 14th, and most recent, Roland Garros crown that week before missing last year’s tournament through injury.

This year’s event will be the 37-year-old Spaniard’s clay-court swansong before retirement but his farewell tour has not gone to plan so far, with a thigh injury sustained in January restricting him to just four tournaments. Meanwhile, Zverev is among the favourites to lift the crown with form, fitness or surface suitability doubts plaguing the rest of the top five players in the world – Novak Djokovic, Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic is defending champion at Roland Garros after defeating Casper Ruud in straight sets in the final 12 months ago but hasn’t won a tournament all year. He has been drawn against wildcard doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round as he bids for a record-extending 24th grand slam title.

World No 2 Sinner will play American Christopher Eubanks and two-time grand slam champion Alcaraz faces a qualifier or lucky loser, although both men have battled injury this season. World No 5 Medvedev, who has won just one clay-court tournament in his career, will play Germany’s Dominik Koepfer.

Injury has hampered Carlos Alcaraz’s French Open preparation this year (AP)
Injury has hampered Carlos Alcaraz’s French Open preparation this year (AP)

Andy Murray, who like Nadal is playing at the French Open for the final time, must battle past old foe and fellow three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka first up, while British No 1 Cameron Norrie faces Russia’s world No 57 Pavel Kotov as Jack Draper plays a qualifier or lucky loser and Dan Evans has been drawn against Danish 13th seed Holger Rune.

In the women’s singles draw, world No 1, two-time defending champion and overwhelming favourite Iga Swiatek will launch the defence of her crown against a qualifier or lucky loser in the opening round, while her main rival for the title Aryna Sabalenka takes on Erika Andreeva.

Women’s 26th seed Katie Boulter, seeded for the first time at a grand slam, has a hugely tricky draw against Spain’s Paula Badosa, while fellow Brit Harriet Dart plays Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova.

Additional reporting by PA