Shropshire Star

Rafael Nadal handed tough French Open start against fourth seed Alexander Zverev

The 14-time champion takes on the Italian Open winner while Andy Murray will play a familiar rival.

Last updated

Rafael Nadal’s French Open swansong will begin with a blockbuster clash against Alexander Zverev.

Nadal is set to play at the tournament he has won on a record 14 occasions for the final time, and he has his work cut out if he is to make it beyond the opening round.

Zverev climbed to world number four on the back of winning the Italian Open in Rome at the weekend and heads into the year’s second grand slam as one of the favourites.

Nadal won the title on his last appearance on the Parisian clay in 2022 but has played only four tournaments in the last year and a half because of hip problems and was well beaten by Hubert Hurkacz in the second round in Rome.

Andy Murray is also set to make his final French Open appearance and incredibly will play Stan Wawrinka for a third time in a row at Roland Garros.

Wawrinka won an epic semi-final in 2017 that was the start of Murray’s hip problems, and the Scot’s only match in Paris since was a one-sided loss to the veteran Swiss four years ago.

Murray returned from nearly two months out with an ankle injury last week but has won only one match on clay this season.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic will play French wild card Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

World number one Djokovic, 37, who defeated Casper Ruud in straight sets in last year’s final, will be bidding for a record-breaking 25th grand slam title but has struggled for form this year.

Women’s world number one Iga Swiatek will launch the defence of her title against a qualifier or lucky loser and could play four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka in the second round.

Men’s world number two Jannik Sinner will play American Christopher Eubanks providing he has recovered sufficiently from a hip injury while two-time grand slam winner Carlos Alcaraz, who is also short on matches because of a forearm problem, faces a qualifier or lucky loser.

British number one Katie Boulter, seeded for the first time at a grand slam at number 26, faces a tough opener against former top-10 star Paula Badosa, while Harriet Dart has also been handed a difficult draw against 27th seed Linda Noskova.

British men’s number one Cameron Norrie, seeded 32nd, faces Russia’s world number 57 Pavel Kotov, with the winner to play either Murray or Wawrinka.

Dan Evans has his work cut out against 13th seed Holger Rune while Jack Draper plays a qualifier or lucky loser but has Alcaraz looming in the second round.

Britain’s contingent was reduced from seven to six on Wednesday when Jodie Burrage, sidelined since February following wrist surgery, revealed she had injured her ankle in training.

Billy Harris fell agonisingly short of qualifying for his first grand slam appearance, the 29-year-old from the Isle of Man losing 7-6 (2) 7-5 to Valentin Vacherot in the final round.

Meanwhile, women’s world number five Jessica Pegula, who has been sidelined through injury since last month, has withdrawn from the tournament.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.