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2019 Roland Garros men’s draw analysis

Matt Zemek

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Susan Mullane - USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 Roland Garros men’s draw is out.

If you have not yet been able to see the full bracket, here it is:

Let’s not waste any time pretending to wonder how this is likely to end. There are no guarantees in sports, but if you were to envision a draw in which Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal meet in the final, this is exactly the draw you would create.

Keep this point in mind: Dominic Thiem IS a factor, yes. Djokovic happened to draw him in his half. Yet, Thiem was always going to land in one half or the other. He was always going to be the number one threat toward a Rafole final.

The true drama — and meaning — of this draw was found in the quarterfinals, more precisely, which players landed in the top four quarters.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Juan Martin del Potro are the players seeded 5 through 8 who figure to be tougher draws for the top four in the quarterfinals. Kei Nishikori and Alexander Zverev are the 5-8 seeds who figure to be less difficult for the top four.

The big threat toward a Rafole final existed not solely in the form of Thiem, but more precisely in the possibility that Thiem would get a comparatively easier quarterfinal draw, while the player in Thiem’s half (in this case, Djokovic) got a rough fourth round and quarterfinal draw. If Djokovic had drawn Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round and then Delpo or Tsitsipas in the quarters, Nole might have been worn down entering the semifinals against a comparatively fresher version of Thiem. That was the scenario needed to cast some doubt over a possible Djokovic-Nadal final.

That scenario did not unfold. Djokovic does have to face the possibility of meeting Thiem in the semis, but Thiem — not Djokovic — has the tougher ride to the semis.

Does Borna Coric have a chance against Djokovic in a possible fourth-round match? Yes… but Coric certainly hasn’t earned complete trust at the majors and has shown that he doesn’t handle major-tournament pressure all that well.

Does Fabio Fognini have a chance against Djokovic in the quarters, if that matchup happens? Yes… but Fognini has been utterly unreliable at majors and in the best-of-five format they provide.

Nadal doesn’t have Wawrinka in the fourth round. He doesn’t have Delpo or Tsitsipas in the quarters. He doesn’t have Thiem in the semis. He hit the jackpot with this draw. Daniil Medvedev in the quarters could be intriguing, but let’s say that match is a tough one. Nadal won’t have Thiem in the semis, offering the likelihood of an easier match and a chance to enter the final without too much strain.

This draw plays right into the hands of Rafole. Combinations of matchups designed to create chaos did not emerge in this draw.

With Rafole having great paths, the first five rounds of Roland Garros will be more interesting for what they say — and reveal — about the rest of the ATP Tour.

Will Roger Federer get past Matteo Berrettini in round three and make the second week?

Will Marco Cecchinato, defending semifinal points, earn a date with Federer or Berrettini in round four and defend most of his points?

Will Fabio Fognini be able to make a major quarterfinal on his best surface?

Will Alexander Zverev do the same — he and Fog could meet in the fourth round, but both men might not even get there.

Can Daniil Medvedev beat Kei Nishikori and reach the quarters?

Will Stefanos Tsitsipas make yet another big clay semifinal?

Will Stan Wawrinka pull off another “escape from hibernation” and awaken at a major, which he has been known to do before yet can’t be relied upon to do? (That’s Stan!)

If Karen Khachanov and Lucas Pouille, two talented but exasperating players, meet again in Roland Garros — they met in 2018 in Paris — who prevails?

These questions are all very interesting… but the only question which people will probably remember about this tournament 30 years from now is this:

Djokovic or Nadal?

I won’t write too much about that match right now because we will probably get to preview it on Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8 before the big show on Sunday, June 9.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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