NOVAK DJOKOVIC may have to beat Rafael Nadal in the French Open QUARTER-FINALS of his bid to draw level with his great rival on 21 Grand Slams.
The pair were pitted in the same quarter at Roland Garros, which starts on Sunday.
Top-seed and world No1 Djokovic is the defending champion on the red clay of Paris.
But he knows he will need to be at his best to go all the way once again this year and claim a third Coupe des Mousquetaires.
Because even if he sees off No5 seed and 13-TIME winner Nadal in the last eight, he would likely face teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the next round for a place in this year’s Open di Francia finale.
Alcaraz has taken the tennis world by storm this year, enjoying an incredible rise up to No6 in the world rankings and beating Nadal and Djokovic on his way to the Madrid title.
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Nadal, nel frattempo, wants to battle through his persistent foot injury to extend his lead at the top of the GOAT race after winning the Australian Open in January to move on to 21 majors.
Incredibilmente, the winners of the last 12 French Opens are in the same quarter as 2015 champ Stan Wawrinka could face Nadal in round two.
Djokovic would likely need to come past Jenson Brooksby and either Grigor Dimitrov or Diego Schwartzman on his way after facing Yoshihito Nishioka in his opening match.
Nadal’s path, nel frattempo, could be Jordan Thompson, Wawrinka, Botic van de Zandschlupp or Fabio Fognini then Reilly Opelka or Felix Auger-Aliassime before even taking on Djokovic.
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Alcaraz, seeded sixth, is in the same quarter as world No3 Alexander Zverev in a top-heavy half, just weeks after their Madrid Open final.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, runner-up a year ago, will expect to come through a far weaker bottom half, including Brit Dan Evans in round three.
Evans is up against Argentine battler Francisco Cerundolo while No10 seed Cameron Norrie takes on French wildcard Manuel Guinard.
Emma Raducanu will face a qualifier in her first-ever senior French Open match, four years on from playing in the juniors.
The US Open reigning champ, 19, will be seeded 12th at Roland Garros and could face Madrid winner Ons Jabeur in the fourth round.
Fellow Brits Heather Watson is up against French wildcard Elsa Jacquemot while Harriet Dart plays Italian Martina Trevisan, with Jabeur likely waiting in round two.
Heavy favourite and 2020 winner Iga Swiatek could face another former French Open champion in round four in Simona Halep or Jelena Ostapenko.