It’s the (bad) luck of the draw for Rafael Nadal…
The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star, the reigning French Open champion, has ended up in the same half of the Roland Garros men’s field in the draw as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, meaning no more than one of them can reach the final.
The Big Three top the leaderboard for Grand Slam men’s singles titles. Federer and Nadal head to Roland Garros, where play begins Sunday, tied with 20, while Djokovic has 18. No one else has more than 14.
Nadal, the King of Clay, beat Djokovic in straight sets in the 2020 final for his record-extending 13th championship on the red clay of Paris, but if they meet again this time, it would be in the semifinals.
Nadal is ranked and seeded No. 3 — the seedings adhere strictly to the ATP rankings, so the Spaniard’s unprecedented success in Paris is irrelevant — so he could have wound up on either side of the bracket but was placed in No. 1 Djokovic’s half.
So was Federer, whose record for most weeks atop the ATP rankings recently was broken by Djokovic. Federer is seeded eighth after playing only three matches over the past 15 months because of two operations on his right knee and could meet Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
The other possible men’s quarterfinal on their side is Nadal vs. No. 7 Andrey Rublev.
On the other side of the draw, the potential quarterfinals are No. 2 Daniil Medvedev vs. No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 4 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 6 Alexander Zverev.
Medvedev is a two-time Grand Slam finalist but is 0-4 for his French Open career. Thiem won last year’s US Open and twice has been the runner-up in Paris.
This is the first time that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have been in the same half of a Grand Slam main draw, according to ESPN Stats & Information.