Jordan Thompson lures Rafael Nadal to French Open as Aussies learn their first-round fate at Roland Garros
Australian Jordan Thompson has been given one of the cruellest assignments in sport: to play Rafael Nadal in his clay-court kingdom at Roland Garros.
- Thompson will face 13-time Roland Garros winner Nadal in the first round, which begins this weekend
- Alex de Minaur, who has just reached the semi-finals of the Lyon Open, was drawn against the Frenchman Hugo Gaston
- Australian number one Ajla Tomljanovic will face Estonian fifth seed Anett Kontaveit
Nadal is looking to reclaim the French Open title he has won 13 times, with Sydneysider Thompson the first hurdle in the Spaniard’s way to Roland Garros, no doubt on his ‘home’ Court Philippe Chatrier.
Thursday’s draw threw Thompson what could be any player’s dream – or nightmare – but the 28-year-old will surely relish the prospect of battling the greatest clay-court player in history. the story.
They have met once before, also in Paris, on the covered hard court of Bercy during the Masters, with Nadal winning 6-1, 7-6 (7/3).
But Nadal suffered an early recurrence of his foot injury in the build-up to this year’s Open, meaning this could be the best time for any suitor to nab the 35-year-old at a venue where he lost just three times in 108 games, most recently in last year’s epic semi-final with champion Novak Djokovic.
Indeed, Thompson can be heartened to have reached the third round at Roland Garros three years ago – the best performance by any Aussie in recent times.
His compatriot Alexei Popyrin knows what it’s like to face Nadal in a Roland Garros opener, having lost to the Spaniard in straight sets last year.
This time, Popyrin has a less publicized but still potentially volcanic affair awaiting him in the unpredictable form of Italian Fabio Fognini.
Meanwhile, Australia’s number one Alex de Minaur’s preparation for Roland Garros continues apace, reaching the Lyon Open semi-final on Friday after his opponent retired to injury.
This is Australia’s second semi-final on clay in the space of a month, following their brilliant last four match in Barcelona with eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz, where the Sydneysider were beaten after holding a match point against the Spanish prodigy.
De Minaur took down his French opponent Hugo Gaston, the world number 68, in his first round.
If he gets past the dangerous southpaw, the No. 19 seed will then face a next-round qualifier before a potential third-round clash, most likely with Canadian Denis Shapovalov or new Dane Rune Holger.
Thanasi Kokkinakis could enjoy the dubious pleasure of a second-round encounter with Alcaraz if he can beat Spanish crusher Albert Ramos-Vinolas first.
John Millman was given a massive task to tame rising American 27th seed Sebastian Korda in his opener, while the ever-resilient James Duckworth, who just embarked on another comeback after the ninth episode of surgery of his career, has a winable tie against Sweden’s Mikael Ymer.
Jason Kubler meets another qualifier.
Australia’s top female prospect Ajla Tomljanovic, who suffered a thigh injury at the Moroccan Open on Thursday, would surely have preferred a much softer start than facing Estonia’s fifth seed Anett Kontaveit in the kick-off. of the tournament on Sunday.
Finally, the wildcard Daria Saville won a qualification, while Astra Sharma, also eliminated in Morocco on Thursday, faces the Russian Varvara Gracheva.