French Open: Nadal, Dkojovic and Federer in same half of Roland Garros draw

By Sports Desk May 27, 2021

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic could meet at the semi-final stage of the French Open, while Iga Swiatek and Ash Barty are in the same half of the draw.

Nadal will start his quest to win the Paris grand slam a staggering 14th time with a first-round encounter against Australian Alexei Popyrin next week.

Defending champion Nadal, the third seed, is in the same half of the draw as fellow all-time greats Djokovic and Federer, who could face the Serbian world number one in the last eight.

Top seed Djokovic, who is two major titles shy of the record of 20 held by Federer and Nadal, will take on Tennys Sandgren in the first round.

Swiss great Federer will come up against a qualifier in round one at Roland Garros, while two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem is up against Pablo Andujar.

Pole Swiatek claimed her maiden grand slam title at the French Open last year and takes on her close friend Kaja Juvan in the first round.

World number one Barty, who did not travel to Paris to defend her title in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, has will make her return at the clay-court major against Bernarda Pera.

Serena Williams comes up against Irina-Camelia Begu, while last year's runner-up Sofia Kenin must do battle with the 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko in a standout first-round match.

Carla Suarez Navarro can expect plenty of support when she takes on Sloane Stephens in her first tournament since successfully completing cancer treatment.

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    Naomi Osaka will face Amanda Anisimova in round three of the Australian Open after easing past Madison Brengle on Wednesday.

    The two-time champion in Melbourne won 6-0 6-4 to set up a meeting with the 20-year-old American, who earlier upset Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic in straight sets.

    Despite a second-set wobble on serve that gave Brengle hope of a comeback, Osaka looked in comfortable control of the contest and has now dropped just one set in her five matches in 2022.

    Brengle was a 6-2 6-2 winner in the only previous meeting in Rock Hill way back in 2013, when Osaka had just turned 16 and had barely any Tour experience. Against the Osaka of 2022, a four-time major champion, she had few answers.

    Osaka tore through Brengle's defence in the opening set, wrapping it up in 20 minutes while dropping just three points on serve.

    Brengle was credited with just one winner in her chaotic first-round match with Dayana Yastremska, who retired trailing 6-1 0-6 0-5. It was not until the second game of the second set that Brengle matched that tally, but it was worth the wait: a brutal inside-out backhand across court, celebrated with gusto, as she began to make inroads on the Osaka serve.

    Osaka dug deep, saving three break points before holding for 2-1 and then another with a timely ace in her next service game. Her play was becoming erratic, though, and after saving a further three break points at 3-3, a wild overhead handed Brengle the breakthrough.

    Yet if the 31-year-old thought then that the match was just getting started, it was suddenly over. Osaka broke back immediately with a backhand volley at the net and did not lose another point from there, clinching the contest when Brengle's passing shot dropped wide.

    DATA SLAM: Osaka into overdrive

    Brengle quadrupled her winner count from her first-round match, but the world number 54 was simply outgunned by Osaka when it came to rallies.

    The Japanese star fired in 37 winners to 32 unforced errors, turning on the power just when it seemed like the contest was balancing out.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Brengle – 4/14
    Osaka – 37/32

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Brengle – 0/1
    Osaka – 8/1

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Brengle – 1/10
    Osaka – 5/7

  • Australian Open: Nadal insists 'I don't have any big pressure' in quest for 21st major title Australian Open: Nadal insists 'I don't have any big pressure' in quest for 21st major title

    Rafael Nadal insisted he does not feel any significant pressure at the Australian Open as he goes in search of a record-breaking 21st grand slam singles title.

    The Spaniard eased into the third round on Wednesday with a 6-2 6-3 6-4 over Yannick Hanfmann on Rod Laver Arena.

    Nadal, who is now 16-0 in the second round of this event in his career, has enjoyed an encouraging return to action in 2022 following a foot injury.

    The 35-year-old won the Melbourne Summer Set warm-up tournament, collecting his 89th title on the ATP Tour in the process, and is now 5-0 for the season.

    With Novak Djokovic not involved, the prospect of Nadal winning a second Australian Open title – and a record 21st major overall – is very real.

    None of Nadal's vanquished opponents this month are in the top 50 in the world, though, and he could face 28th seed Karen Khachanov in round three before a possible quarter-final against world number three Alexander Zverev.

    Still, rather than worry about the matches to come, Nadal is simply enjoying being back on court and retuning his game.

    "As I said here before the tournament started, things [are] not going to be perfect, but every day that I'm going to spend on court, the chances to play better are higher," he said.

    "I think I am doing things well. Things that I can improve, I have to improve. I want to keep going in the tournament. But winning today allows me to practice again tomorrow, to be ready for another match. After two matches it's the moment to make a step forward. It's not going to be impossible. I'm going to try.

    "I'm excited about it. I'm excited about the fact that I'm going to be playing in a third round for one more time here after all the things I am going through.

    "I don't have big pressure on my shoulders, honestly. I don't feel it. The pressure is only to stay healthy and to enjoy the fact that I am competing again, then give my best as I did during all my tennis career."

    Asked about the potential Zverev match-up, Nadal added: "I don't know. I am in the third round. I need to win very tough matches to be there. It is not in my mind now. I have enough work.

    "I think playing against Khachanov now, probably Khachanov, [is] going to be a big challenge.

    "I never think that far. You can imagine now less than ever, no? Just staying focused on my daily work, on what's coming, and that's it. One moment in time, that's it."

  • Australian Open: She can hit you off the court – Barty wary of Giorgi Australian Open: She can hit you off the court – Barty wary of Giorgi

    World number one Ash Barty is wary of Camila Giorgi's ability to "hit you off the court" ahead of their meeting at the Australian Open.

    Barty crushed Lucia Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 in the second round on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.

    The Australian has lost just three games in the opening two rounds at Melbourne Park, where she is bidding to win her third grand slam title.

    Another Italian, 30th seed Giorgi, awaits in the third round and Barty is wary of the hard-hitting 30-year-old.

    "Some very different challenges to what I've had the last couple matches. She has the ability to hold baseline, to control the centre of the court, be super, super aggressive off her serve and first shot, particularly off her return," she said.

    "It's going to be a match where I'm going to have to serve well, bring in variety, make sure I can cover the court, neutralise the best that I can. She has the ability to hit you off the court without realising it's happening.

    "I think it's going to be another match with some fresh challenges. But having played her before, she kind of knows my game, I kind of know hers. It's about going out there and trying to do it as good as I can."

    In three previous meetings with Giorgi, Barty has never lost, although the most recent of those came at the 2018 Australian Open.

    Barty has been in impressive form so far in Melbourne and was pleased with her performance against Bronzetti.

    "Yeah, I felt good. I felt like I wanted to try to use my experience a little bit today, get off to a quick start. I felt like I was able to do that," she said.

    "I served well. I was able to find plenty of forehands and control the match quite well, so pleased with that one."

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