Roland Garros: Zverev to face Nadal

Rafa Nadal
Mal Taam/MALT photo

It was surprising that Novak Djokovic could not play well at all in the third set, and he went down 6-4, 0-6, 6-1 against Tomas Machac.  He played fantastic, a lot, and he put together some terrific shots, and he actually beat the long-time No. 1. He was thrilled, but Djokovic was very disappointed. His body was fevered, and he was slow. He took a medical timeout after the first set with  a stomach issue.
“It was a terrible feeling with stomach and health today. It was not a great night and today as well,” he said. 

He isn’t sure that when he starts to play at Roland Garros, he could be OK, or to be mentally out of it.

“Of course I am worried. I haven’t been playing good at all this year,” said Djokovic, who hasn’t won a tournament in 2024. “I don’t consider myself a favorite there. I’m going to take it match by match and see how far I can go.” 

He will have to. The Czech Machac is only 23-years-old, and while he has yet to reach into the top 32 at the Grand Slamw, but he has had a solid year, here and there.  He beat a few fine competitors, but in the past four months, he did not beat the top 20 men players,  until two days ago, when he upset Djokovic.  Apparently, he rose up.

“If you play against Novak you just hope and try to play your best and see how it looks,” Machac said.

He is not the only one, as the 14-time Grand Slam Roland Garros champion, Rafa Nadal, has to face  against Alexander Zverev in the first-round. Is the German ready to chop down Nadal, on clay, or will the Spaniard play much better then he did in Madrid and Rome, when he was so-so, at best.   “To be very honest, I wanted to play Rafa again in my career, because I didn’t want my last memory of me playing against Rafa to be me leaving the court on a wheelchair,” Zverev said. “Ideally, I would have liked to play him in the later stage of the tournament, but it is how it is now. He is unseeded this year. I am seeded. You know, it’s a tough draw, but it’s a tough draw for both of us. We’ll see how it goes on Monday.”

OK, it could be a wide open amounts the men, but also, there is not doubt that  Iga Swiatek is the favorited. The No. 1 won Madrid and Rome, beating the other wonderful players, against Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff. She is so consistent, and she can hit  the ball super hard, into the corners. She can return very deep, and she can flat it out, and nail it. But it is possible that someone can play 100 percent, and upset the Pole.

“I would lie if I would say I’m not nervous, because everybody is, I think,” Swiatek said. “There is a lot of pressure, especially when you play well and you already know that you can achieve this step, people are expecting it to happen again and again and again. So there is pressure, but I wouldn’t say I’m more nervous than usual… I’m also pretty confident with how I’m playing right now and with the work we have been doing.”

On Saturday, two of the Americans, Madison Keys and Danielle Collins, will face off in the final at the Internationaux de Strasbourg. Whomever wins, then she can go to Roland Garros and feel like  she can go very deep into the second week. After that, who nows?

”I was excited to come here after Rome and playing some great tennis on clay … having some great matches under my belt this clay-court season and playing some tough opponents,” Collins said.