Naomi Osaka gets rematch as she returns to French Open

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FILE – Serbian Novak Djokovic, left, shakes hands with Spaniard Rafael Nadal after their semi-final match at the Roland Garros tennis tournament, Friday, June 11, 2021 in Paris. Novak Djokovic won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2. The draw for this year’s tournament at Roland Garros took place in Paris on Thursday. (AP Photo/Michel Eule, Filer)

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Naomi Osaka will not have the luxury of returning to the courts of Roland-Garros, facing a tough opponent in her very first match.

Week 2 at Roland Garros, meanwhile, could be quite fascinating for Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz – the three main favorites for the men’s title found themselves on the same side of the table for the Grand Slam tournament on clay , which means only one can reach the final.

Thursday’s draw at Roland Garros also opened up two tantalizing fourth-round possibilities for No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek, the 2020 champion who is currently on a 28-game winning streak. She may have to face 2018 champion Simona Halep at this point or 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko – who just happens to be the last woman to defeat Swiatek.

The tournament begins on Sunday.

Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam champion who was previously No. 1 in the rankings but slipped to No. 38 in part due to a lack of activity. This included time off for a mental health break after she withdrew from Roland Garros ahead of her second-round match last year, revealing she had dealt with anxiety and depression.

Because she’s not seeded at Roland-Garros, she wasn’t immune to facing a seeded opponent right away, so that’s what’s going to happen against the No. 27 Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American who was a semi-finalist in 2019 in Paris.

Anisimova won her third-round encounter at the Australian Open in January by a score of 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5). Osaka was the defending champion at Melbourne Park.

Possible women’s quarterfinals in Paris are Swiatek against two-time major finalist Karolina Pliskova, and seeded No. 3 Paula Badosa against No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka in the top half of the field, and defending champion Barbora Krejcikova against No. 5 Anett Kontaveit, and No. 4 Maria Sakkari against No. 6 Ons Jabeur in the bottom half.

Last year, in her first appearance in the main singles draw at Roland Garros, Krejcikova won both that trophy – the player she beat in the final, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, announced this week that her season was over ended due to a knee injury – with women’s doubles.

So it makes sense that Krejcikova used phrases such as ‘extremely amazing’ and ‘something amazing’ while discussing what happened in 2021 during a brief appearance at the draw ceremony. and noted with a smile, “This clay suits me.”

Nadal, he of 13 titles on the red thing in Paris, and Djokovic, double champion, could of course say the same.

Djokovic, who is the defending champion and No. 1 seed, could meet Nadal in the quarter-finals. A year ago, Djokovic beat Nadal in the semi-finals, before overcoming a two-set deficit against Stefanos Tsitsipas to win the final.

“I’m very motivated to play my best tennis,” Djokovic said in French on Thursday, as he scored his chance to return to the Grand Slam stage after missing the Australian Open because he wasn’t. not vaccinated against COVID-19 (the French Open does not have such a requirement).

“Last year in Paris was the perfect result. Roland Garros was perhaps the most difficult of my career – of all the Grand Slam tournaments I won,” he said. “Very emotional, tiring, but in the end the result came.”

Nadal leads the men’s Grand Slam title standings with 21, one ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

If the Djokovic-Nadal showdown happens, the winner could face No.6 seed Alcaraz in the semi-finals. Alcaraz is just 19, recently won the Madrid Open on clay and became the youngest man to enter the top 10 in the rankings since Nadal in 2005.

Alcaraz could meet No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.

The potential quarter-finalists in the other half of the table are No. 2 Daniil Medvedev against No. 7 Andrey Rublev – two Russians who will not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon due to the invasion of Ukraine by this country – and No. 4 Tsitsipas against No. 7. 8 Casper Ruud.

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