No. 1 Alcaraz, No. 3 Djokovic drawn on same side of French Open bracket

Carlos Alcaraz and the man he just replaced atop the rankings, 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, were placed in the same half of the French Open field in Thursday's draw and could face each other in the semifinals.

Auger-Aliassime withdraws from Lyon quarters, casting doubt on status for Grand Slam

Two tennis players embrace at the net.
Spain's Carlos Alcaraz, right, and Serbia's Novak Djokovic, left, seen above in 2022, were drawn onto the same side of the bracket for the French Open on Thursday. (Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP via Getty Images)

Carlos Alcaraz and the man he just replaced atop the rankings, 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, were placed in the same half of the French Open field in Thursday's draw and could face each other in the semifinals.

Alcaraz is seeded No. 1 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time and was automatically placed in the top section of the bracket. Djokovic is No. 3 and so could have ended up on either half — had he landed in the bottom, he and Alcaraz only could have met in the final at Roland Garros, where 14-time champion Rafael Nadal will be missing for the first time since he made his debut at the clay-court major in 2005.

Play begins Sunday.

Typically, the previous year's singles champions are invited to appear at the draw, so 2022 women's winner Iga Swiatek was present Thursday. Nadal, of course, was not. Still, he was the first player mentioned at the outset of the ceremony by French Tennis Federation president Gilles Morreton, who noted, "Unfortunately, he cannot play the tournament this year."

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Swiatek did not appear to show any ill effects from the hurt right thigh that caused her to stop playing in the third set of her quarterfinal match in Rome last weekend. She indicated almost immediately that the issue would not prevent her from competing in Paris, where she has won two of her three major trophies.

"It's like my favourite tournament in the whole year, so I'm always excited to come back," said Swiatek, who has been ranked No. 1 for more than a year. "Before the tournament, I get this extra motivation to practice harder, to make everything better."

The draw put her in a potential quarterfinal against No. 6 Coco Gauff in what would be a rematch of last year's French Open final.

Auger-Aliassime in line to meet Tsitsipas early

Meanwhile, Canadian tennis star Felix Auger-Aliassime withdrew from the quarterfinals of the Lyon Open on Thursday, casting some doubt on his participation in the upcoming French Open.

He withdrew from his match against up-and-coming French teen Arthur Fils with a shoulder injury shortly after the French Open draw was announced.

Main draw action at the second Grand Slam of the year begins Sunday.

The move could be precautionary for Auger-Aliassime. He's seeded 10th at Roland Garros and was drawn into a bracket at the clay-court major that could include a fourth-round matchup against No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece

The two young stars have met eight times on the ATP Tour, with Tsitsipas holding a 5-3 edge.

Auger-Aliassime won the last meeting in the final of last year's Rotterdam Open for his first of four ATP titles in 2022. That ended a run of five straight victories for Tsitsipas over Auger-Aliassime.
The two have met only once of clay, with Tsitsipas taking the quarterfinal of a 2021 event in Barcelona.

Auger-Aliassime will begin his French Open against Italy's Fabio Fognini, a former world No. 9. Auger-Aliassime won the only previous meeting between the two at a clay-court tournament in Rio de Janeiro.

The Canadian made his deepest run at Roland-Garros last year when he reached the fourth round before losing to eventual winner and 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller.

Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., will also represent Canada in men's singles play, while Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., and Vancouver's Rebecca Marino are all set to compete in women's singles.

Fernandez, Marino and Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski have been entered into the women's doubles draw with their respective partners.

Shapovalov, the 26th seed, will be competing in the same quarter as Auger-Aliassime and opens against American Brandon Nakashima. He would have to get past top-seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in order to advance to a potential quarterfinal against Auger-Aliassime.

Andreescu faces an early challenge, with two-time Grand Slam champion and French Open semifinalist Victoria Azarenka on tap in the first round.

Fernandez, will take on No. 21-seed Magda Linette of Poland in her opener. Fernandez beat Linette in her French Open debut in 2020.

Marino, who reached the third round of the French Open back in 2011, opens against Russia's Diana Shnaider.

Limited history between Alcaraz, Djokovic

Alcaraz, who just turned 20, and Djokovic, who just turned 36, have played each other just once previously, in the semifinals of the Madrid Open in May 2022. Alcaraz won that one 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) — a day after beating Nadal in the quarterfinals, becoming the first player to defeat both Djokovic and Nadal at the same clay-court tournament. Alcaraz went on to collect the title there with a straight-set victory over Alexander Zverev in the final.

It was Zverev who ended Alcaraz's 14-match winning streak in the French Open quarterfinals last year. That was also the round where Nadal stopped Djokovic in a four-set, four-hour thriller.

This time, the men's quarterfinals by seeding would be Alcaraz, the reigning U.S. Open champion, against No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, a two-time Slam finalist; Djokovic against No. 7 Andrey Rublev; No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open winner, against No. 8 Jannik Sinner; and No. 4 Casper Ruud, runner-up at the French Open and U.S. Open last year, against No. 6 Holger Rune.

Other women's matchups in that round could be No. 4 Elena Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, against No. 7 Ons Jabeur, a two-time major finalist; No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January, against No. 5 Caroline Garcia; and No. 3 Jessica Pegula vs. No. 8 Maria Sakkari.

One player who would have been seeded, 29th-ranked Paula Badosa, pulled out before the draw, saying she got a stress fracture in her spine during the Italian Open.

Swiatek will begin her tournament with a meeting against Cristina Bucsa, a Spaniard ranked 67th whose career record at the French Open is 0-1.

Some other intriguing first-rounders include Sabalenka against Marta Kostyuk and Pegula against 2022 Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins.

With files from The Canadian Press

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