Above is the immediate reaction of Rafael Nadal (and of French Tennis Federation president Jean Gachassin on his left) when the token with his No. 6 seed number was drawn out to potentially set up a French Open quarter-final against top-seeded Novak Djokovic.

As defending champions, Nadal and Maria Sharapova were present at the draw ceremony which was televised live on Eurosport.

There was only a one-in-four chance that Nadal would be in Djokovic’s quarter – and almost everyone was hoping that would not happen so they could avoid a early confrontation. They faced each other in the final in both 2012 and 2014 and in the semifinals in 2013.

Maria Sharapova

The protocol at Roland Garros is for computer-generated placing of the 96 unseeded players in the draw and then the 32 seeds (using numbered tokens) are drawn out of the trophies – with ‘fair play’ being respected as the men’s champion picks out the seeded women and the women’s champion does likewise for the men’s seeds. It was in that role (above) that Sharapova drew the No. 6 seed, Nadal, when it came time to pick out tokens with the numbers of players seeded from five to eight.

Walking out of the draw ceremony, a journalist saw Benito Perez Barbadillo, Nadal’s media manager, and good-naturedly offered his sympathies. Perez Barbadillo just smiled and joked, “no, no, it’s bad for Djokovic’s people.”

In a round-about way, Milos Raonic could be blamed for Nadal’s bad luck in having to potentially play Djokovic as early as the quarter-finals. If Raonic had not pulled out following surgery on Wednesday, May 13, for a nerve condition – Morton’s Neuroma – in his right foot, he would have been the No. 6 seed with Nadal bumped back to No. 7. But even then, the No. 7 token (David Ferrer) came out in Djokovic’s half, so a Djokovic – Nadal meeting was in the cards anyway.

As for Nadal himself, he would only comment about the potential quarter-final versus the top-seeded Djokovic, “I would love to arrive to that match. Yeah, that’s my reaction, no? That match is in quarter-finals and I didn’t start the first round yet, no? I don’t see an easy way to arrive to that match. I am focused on the things that I have to do before that. If I arrive to that match, we are going to have two days to talk about it.”

An examination of the first four rounds for both players would indicate that Djokovic has a slightly better chance of reaching the final eight. Surprises could always happen but the three other seeds he could face before the quarter-finals are No. 27 Bernard Tomic, No. 20 Richard Gasquet and No. 15 Kevin Anderson. His first-round opponent is 33-year-old Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.

Nadal, after starting with French wild card Quentin Halys, would play the winner of Nicolas Almagro and Alexander Dolgopolov – both of whom have beaten him in the past 15 months – and then the third round could be less threatening followed by No. 10 seed Grigor Dimitrov or No. 18 Tommy Robredo as a possible opposition in the round-of-16.

Nadal and Uncle Toni

Nadal, pictured above in practice on Thursday with Uncle Toni watching, has been very upfront about his recent struggles – he has not won a European clay-court title this year for the first time since 2003, but still he manages to have the most clay-court wins on tour this year with 17.

About his candour in admitting that he has experienced some nerves in matches and not played his best, he regaled the media interview with the following explanation: “It’s myself. I don’t know. I say what I feel. I said a lot of times in my career I’m not gonna lie if it’s not 100% necessary. (Laughter). And that’s it. Yeah, I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but at the end of the day you can lie here but you cannot lie on court. If you say that you are great and you go on court and you play against a good player, you don’t gonna lie him. Then page 1 of 2 you gonna come back here and gonna say, Okay, I was lying before. (Smiling.) It’s fine.

“You know, I am not new here. I spend a lot of years on the tour; 13 already. At the end of the day, the real thing is what I am saying here or what we say here, my feeling is not gonna affect what happen later on the court, no? I don’t need to lie to create better expectation or to let you or the people know that I am in one way or I am in the other way. I am being honest. When I say I don’t know what’s gonna happen, I really don’t know what’s gonna happen. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have confidence on myself to try to be ready for it. I have to think that I am ready for it. But I know sometimes that it’s tougher to be ready for it. But seriously, my last couple of weeks have been much more positive than what the results said. Probably in Rome I was playing much better than the result was, no? So is a court that I like. Is a tournament that I love. I am gonna try to put my game: I would love to arrive to that match. Yeah, that’s my reaction, no? That match is in quarter-finals and I didn’t start the first round yet, no? I don’t see an easy way to arrive to that match. I am focused on the things that I have to do before that. If I arrive to that match, we going to have two days to talk about.”

The draw is somewhat stacked in the top half with No. 3 seed Andy Murray and No. 7 David Ferrer located in the second quarter.


Djokovic, above with coach Marian Vajda on court Thursday (he seems to take precedence over co-coach Becker on right), gave a pretty straight-forward response to the possibility of meeting Nadal in the quarter-finals: “I played him in semifinals and finals more than a few times. Actually I think at the very beginning once in quarters, as well. Doesn’t really matter. I mean, I think we both are aiming to play our best, and as the tournament progresses, already by quarter-finals I think we already play at our high.”

With Djokovic, Nadal and Murray in the top half, the opening is there for No. 2 seed Roger Federer, No. 4 Tomas Berdych or No. 5 Kei Nishikori to make the final from the bottom half.


Federer, with coach Stefan Edberg watching above, faces lucky loser Alejandro Falla, 31, in the first round. He is 7-0 versus the No. 111-ranked Colombian but did struggle mightily against him in the 2010 opening round at Wimbledon before winning 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-0.

The 2009 champion offered up an amusing line in his French media conference on Saturday, saying, “I’m the only other guy in the draw to have won here. Rafa took all the other ones for himself.”

Top heavy women’s draw


Very much like the WTA’s Premier event in Madrid two weeks ago, the women’s draw is a bit of a logjam of talent right at the very top where both Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, figure among the first 16 names. The top-seeded Serena (above on Friday), who has only been in one Roland Garros final (a victory in 2013) since she won her first French Open in 2002, could play No. 27 Victoria Azarenka in the third round. In the opening round, her sister Venus faces Sloane Stephens with the winner possibly to go on to play Serena (or Azarenka?) in the round-of-16. In her first round, Serena takes on qualifier Andrea Hlavackova of Czech Republic.

Caroline Wozniacki, seeded No. 5, is a potential quarter-final opponent for whoever survives that loaded quarter of the draw.

Petra Kvitova, seeded No. 4, is in a more benign second quarter with No. 6 Genie Bouchard.

In the bottom half, last year’s runner-up, Simona Halep, is seeded No. 3 and could be matched against the woman who beat her in a memorable final a year ago, second-seeded Maria Sharapova.

And now they are two

Genie Bouchard

Genie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil are the only Canadians in singles at the 2015 French Open.

Bouchard, above with her team after practice on Saturday, will play No. 54-ranked Kristina Mladenovic of France in the opening round. Better known in Canada as Daniel Nestor’s mixed doubles partner, the 22-year-old Mladenovic upset Li Na in the opening round of Roland Garros a year ago on her way to the third round.

The 6-footer is a dangerous but erratic player who can be temperamental. She should be fired up by playing – likely on Philippe Chatrier centre court – in front of her home crowd.

Bouchard defeated Mladenovic in their only previous meeting – 6-3, 6-2 in the quarter-finals in Quebec City in 2013.

Looking further down the line if she wins, Bouchard looks like she could have a less troublesome passage through the second and third rounds before possibly running into No. 12 seed Karolina Pliskova or No. 18 Svetlana Kuznetsova in the round-of-16. In the quarter-finals might be No. 4 Petra Kvitova or No. 16 Madison Keys if she is to try and at least equal her semifinal finish a year ago.

On Friday, Bouchard practiced on Court No. 1 at 10 a.m. before scooting over to the nearby Jean Bouin tennis club for some more hitting.

She will play her first match on either Monday or Tuesday.

Vasek Pospisil arrived in Paris on Thursday and has been carefully practicing as he recovers from a second degree ankle sprain suffered when he stepped on doubles partner Jack Sock’s foot during a quarter-final in Madrid.

He has just been drilling the past two days and will start actually playing points for the first time on Saturday.

In the first round he has drawn Portuguese clay-courter Joao Sousa. It will be a contest between the world No. 50, Sousa, and the world No. 51 Pospisil, and it will also be their first meeting. The winner is likely to get No. 3 seed Andy Murray in the second round.

The obvious absentee, Milos Raonic, is making progress after his surgery nine days ago. The good news is that he is apparently no longer feeling any pain his foot.

Marathon men

Pierre-Hughes Herbert

The above picture was taken when Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France served facing match point against Andrea Arnaboldi of Italy in second-round French Open qualifying action on Thursday.

Herbert wound up losing the point when Arnaboldi swiped a clean-winner passing shot past him. As is visible through the ballboy’s legs, the match lasted four hours and 26 minutes.

Arnaboldi was not too worn out, managing to qualify with a third-round victory on Friday.

The 27-25 final set broke the French Open qualifying record belonging to Daniel Nestor, who in 1996 defeated France’s Thierry Guardiola 4-6, 6-3, 22-20.

Happy birthday Nole

Djokovic  birthday

Novak Djokovic turned 28 on Friday and was presented with a gift and a gluten-free cake by tournament director Gilbert Ysern.

There were a bunch of photographers at the back of the room snapping away and one called out, “how about some champagne?” Djokovic, who memorably almost blinded himself in an eye popping a champagne cork after his victory in Rome last Sunday, replied, “I don’t have such a great relationship with champagne.”

He also made a remark about how he can still feel it on his nose.

NOTE: We will be back with a Roland Garros blog on Monday.