20 May 2022, 10:00

Djokovic, Nadal, Alcaraz in same half of French Open draw

PARIS, May 20, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Defending champion Novak Djokovic, 13-time winner Rafael Nadal and new teenage star Carlos Alcaraz were drawn in the same half of the French Open on Thursday.

World number one Djokovic and Nadal, ranked five, are seeded to meet as early as the quarter-finals.

Alcaraz, 19, is bidding to become just the eighth teenager to win a Grand Slam men's title.

He could face either Djokovic or Nadal, who holds a record 21 majors, in the semi-finals in a top-heavy draw for the second Grand Slam of the season.

"I am very motivated to play my best tennis," said two-time French Open champion and 20-time major winner Djokovic.

"In Paris, I always play very strong. Last year, it was the toughest major that I had won."

Djokovic had to twice come from two sets down last year to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the last-16 and Stefanos Tsitspas in the final having also beaten Nadal from a set behind in a bruising semi-final.

"Musetti, Rafa, Tsitsipas -- every match lasted more than three hours. It was exhausting but I loved the outcome."

Djokovic, who celebrates his 35th birthday on Sunday, the opening day at Roland Garros, faces 94th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in the first round.

Djokovic defeated Nishioka in straight sets in the Australian Open third round in 2020.

He will be fired up to defend his title having been deported from Melbourne in January because of his refusal to get vaccinated.

Nadal starts against Australia's Jordan Thompson as he looks to extend his French Open record of only three defeats in 108 matches at the tournament since his title-winning debut in 2005.

- Oasaka faces Anisimova -

Thompson, ranked at 82, made the third round in Paris in 2019 before losing to Juan Martin del Potro.

Nadal arrived at Roland Garros looking to shake off the recurrence of a long-term foot injury which saw him limp to an early defeat in Rome last week where Djokovic claimed a sixth title in the Italian capital.

The Spaniard could face 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round.

Alcaraz, who has a season-leading four titles in 2022 including Masters crowns in Miami and Madrid as well as Rio and Barcelona, begins against a qualifier.

The teenager knocked out Djokovic and Nadal on his way to victory in the Spanish capital.

Alcaraz's potential opponent in the last 32 is Sebastian Korda who shocked him in the first round in Monte Carlo in April.

Second seed Daniil Medvedev, the US Open champion, faces Argentina's Facundo Bagnis in his first round.

Third-ranked Alexander Zverev meets a qualifier while Tsitsipas has a tough opener against Musetti.

In the women's draw, world number one Iga Swiatek, the 2020 champion, is on a 28-match win streak and has pocketed five successive titles this season.

The 20-year-old Pole begins against a qualifier while second seed and defending champion Barbora Krejcikova faces France's Diane Parry.

"The courts are incredible. The clay is different from the other tournaments but it suits me," said Krejcikova at Thursday's draw ceremony at Roland Garros.

Four-time major winner Naomi Osaka, a former world number one but now down at 38, returns to Paris 12 months after she pulled out ahead of the second round, citing mental health issues.

She had also been threatened with expulsion and fined by organisers over her refusal to attend press conferences.

The 24-year-old, the world's highest-earning sportswoman, faces American 27th seed Amanda Anisimova, a semi-finalist in Paris in 2019.

Anisimova knocked Osaka out of the Australian Open in the third round this year.

Third seed Paula Badosa of Spain begins against France's Fiona Ferro while fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari also has a French opponent in Clara Burel.

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur, seeded six and the champion on clay in Madrid last month, takes on Magda Linette of Poland in her first round clash.