For some top players - including the World No. 1 - luck wasn’t fully on their side at the French Open draw ceremony on Thursday. Here are five of the toughest men’s first rounders in Paris this year:
1. (1) Novak Djokovic Vs Hubert Hurkacz
After an excellent last few weeks, winning Madrid and reaching the final of Rome, Novak Djokovic - the reigning Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion - has to be feeling confident as he comes to Roland Garros looking for a fourth straight Grand Slam title. But the World No. 1 drew one of the fastest-rising young stars in the game as his first-round opponent in Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.
The 22-year-old Hurkacz broke the Top 100 last summer and finished 2018 at No.87, but he’s taken his career to a new level in 2019, reaching his first two ATP quarterfinals at Dubai and Indian Wells and scoring his first three Top 10 wins - he beat Kei Nishikori at Dubai and Indian Wells and then Dominic Thiem in Miami, right after the Austrian won his first Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells.
Djokovic and Hurkacz will be playing each other for the first time.
2. (5) Alexander Zverev Vs John Millman
Though he’s two wins away from his first title of the year in Geneva this week, Alexander Zverev has had a difficult overall start to 2019. He’s lost before the quarterfinals at seven of the 11 events he’s played, and over the last few weeks he’s dipped from No.3 to No.5 after falling in the quarterfinals of Madrid and the second round of Rome - last year he won Madrid and reached the final of Rome.
Awaiting him in the first round of Roland Garros - where he made the quarterfinals last year - will be one of the most consistent players on the tour in John Millman. The Australian reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open last year, taking out Federer along the way. And though his best results have come on faster surfaces, four of his six career Top 20 wins have come at Grand Slams.
Zverev and Millman will be a first-time meeting as well.
3. (8) Juan Martin del Potro Vs Nicolas Jarry
Though Juan Martin del Potro was in vintage form at his last tournament in Rome, holding match points against Novak Djokovic in a quarterfinal thriller, it was still only the Argentine’s third tournament of an injury-plagued 2019, and he hasn’t played best-of-five-sets since the US Open last summer.
The World No. 9 opens his French Open campaign against 23-year-old Nicolas Jarry, who’s already become quite the giant-killer - he has a 3-1 career record against Top 10 players, two of those three wins coming on clay, over Dominic Thiem at Hamburg last year and Zverev at Barcelona this year.
Del Potro and Jarry - both 6’ 6” powerhouses - are playing each other for the first time.
4. (18) Roberto Bautista Agut Vs Steve Johnson
Roberto Bautista Agut has had a strong 2019 campaign, scoring two wins over Djokovic and reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Melbourne. But the World No. 21 has fallen in the first week of Roland Garros in four of six previous attempts, and Johnson - a former No. 21 - has proven himself on clay before, winning two of his four career titles on this surface. Bautista Agut has won all six of their previous meetings, but Johnson has won a set off the Spaniard in four of their last five meetings.
5. (20) Denis Shapovalov Vs Jan-Lennard Struff
After reaching the semifinals of Miami and subsequently breaking the Top 20, Denis Shapovalov has struggled during the clay court season, going 2-5 since the start of April. Meanwhile, Jan-Lennard Struff has looked strong on the dirt, not just beating Shapovalov in their most recent meeting in the first round of Monte Carlo, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, but following that up with wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas in Barcelona, Nick Kyrgios in Madrid and Marin Cilic in Rome. The German actually has a winning 7-5 record against Top 30 players this year - can he keep it going against the No. 23-ranked Shapovalov?