French Open: Sumit Nagal gets tough opener in Paris as Rafael Nadal takes on Zverev in first round

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Paris, May 23 (IANS) India's Sumit Nagal has been handed a tough opening at the French Open and will be facing a top-20 player even as record 14-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal will face World No. 4 Alexander Zverev in a blockbuster first-round clash in the clay court major.

Nagal, who will be making his debut in the 123rd edition of the year's second Grand Slam, will take on World No.18 Karen Khachanov in the first round of the main draw starting on May 26.

Nagal, who turned pro in 2015, had a best-ever ranking of 80 on the ATP Tour on April 15, 2024. He is currently ranked 94. Nagal had made his Grand Slam debut in 2020 at the US Open and had also won his first match at that stage in New York. He is also scheduled to play in the Wimbledon Championship this year.

While Indian fans will be keeping an eye on Sumit Nagal, the spotlight will be on Nadal in what is likely to be the Spaniard's final appearance at the clay-court major.

The 37-year-old, who holds a 112-3 record in the French Open, arrives in Paris off the back of a second-round exit in Rome. Nadal leads Zverev 7-3 in the pair’s ATP head-to-head series, with their first-round clash a re-match of their semifinal in 2022 when Zverev was forced to retire with an ankle injury in the second set after nearly three hours and 13 minutes of gruelling play.

The winner will face former World No. 7 David Goffin or French wild card Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard in the second round. Two-time quarterfinalist Holger Rune is a potential fourth-round opponent for Nadal or Zverev, who lifted the trophy in Rome earlier this month.

Daniil Medvedev starts against German Dominik Koepfer and is seeded to meet fourth-seed Zverev in the semifinals. Medvedev’s best result at Roland Garros was a quarterfinal showing in 2021.

Djokovic to meet Ruud

Defending champion Novak Djokovic begins against French wild card Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Djokovic is a three-time titlist in Paris and is seeded to meet Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals. The Norwegian begins against #NextGenATP Czech Jakub Mensik.

Djokovic has yet to win a title this year and is competing in Geneva this week in a bid to recapture his best form. The Serbian, who is seeded to meet Lorenzo Musetti in the third round and Tommy Paul in the fourth round, will chase a record-extending 25th major in Paris. He will also aim to hold onto the top spot in the PIF ATP Rankings, with Italian Jannik Sinner hovering.

In the bottom half, second seed Sinner starts against Christopher Eubanks, while third seed Carlos Alcaraz plays a qualifier.

Sinner has won a Tour-leading three titles in 2024, including his first major at the Australian Open. He has not competed since Madrid at the end of April, though, due to injury. The 22-year-old will play French wild card Richard Gasquet or Borna Coric in the second round and is seeded to meet Cameron Norrie in the third round.

Rome finalist Nicolas Jarry is a potential fourth-round opponent, with Pole Hubert Hurkacz seeded to meet Sinner in the last eight.

Alcaraz will chase his third major this coming fortnight. The 20-year-old’s best result at the clay-court Slam came last year when he reached the semi-finals. Alcaraz could face 15th seed Ben Shelton in the fourth round and Madrid champion Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals. Rublev opens against Japan’s Taro Daniel.

The first round has thrown up some other intriguing matches.

The 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka meets former No. 1, Andy Murray, while 11th seed Alex de Minaur takes on NextGenATP Alex Michelsen of the United States. French No. 1 Ugo Humbert leads home hopes and starts against Lorenzo Sonego. Two-time finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas is in the bottom half and opens against Marton Fucsovics.