FRENCH OPEN 2020: Nadal eyes 20th Slam title, Djokovic 18th

Men to watch at the French Open, where play begins Sunday:

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC

Seeded: 1

Ranked: 1

Country: Serbia

Age: 33

2020 Match Record: 31-1

2020 Singles Titles: 4

Career Singles Titles: 81

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 17 — French Open (1: 2016), Australian Open (8: 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020), Wimbledon (5: 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019), U.S. Open (3: 2011, 2015, 2018)

Last 5 French Opens: 2019-Lost in Semifinals, 2018-QF, 2017-QF, 2016-Won Championship, 2015-Runner-Up

Aces: Resumes bid for Grand Slam title No. 18 — which would put him two behind Roger Federer, one behind Rafael Nadal — after being disqualified at the U.S. Open. … Returned to competition at Italian Open, which he won for a record 36th Masters 1000 trophy, breaking a tie with Nadal. … Passed Pete Sampras this week for second place behind Federer in list of most weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play No. 15 seed Karen Khachanov in 4th round.

Words: “Pete was my childhood idol growing up, so of course surpassing his records is very special to me. I always looked up to him, and I wished to be mentally strong and resilient as he is, especially in the big tournaments, in the big moments.” — Djokovic on Sampras.

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RAFAEL NADAL

Seeded: 2

Ranked: 2

Country: Spain

Age: 34

2020 Match Record: 15-4

2020 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 85

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 19 — French Open (12: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019), Australian Open (1: 2009), Wimbledon (2: 2008, 2010), U.S. Open (4: 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019)

Last 5 French Opens: 2019-W, 2018-W, 2017-W, 2016-3rd, 2015-QF

Aces: Went 6½ months — from end of February to mid-September — between matches. … Bidding to tie Federer’s record for men of 20 Grand Slam singles titles. If he does that, would extend his own mark for most titles at any major tournament; a 13th trophy in Paris would give him a higher total at that one event than all but three other men in history have won at all the Slams. … Only losses at Roland Garros came in fourth round to Robin Soderling in 2009, and in quarterfinals to Djokovic in 2015; pulled out of 2016 tournament because of a wrist injury.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori in 3rd round, John Isner (who pushed Nadal to 5 sets in Paris in 2011) in 4th.

Words: “I had to come back very slow. After two months without touching a racket, I needed to make things step by step, trying to avoid injuries.” — Nadal on resuming practice after the pandemic lockdown.

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DOMINIC THIEM

Seeded: 3

Ranked: 3

Country: Austria

Age: 27

2020 Match Record: 16-5

2020 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 17

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (2020)

Last 5 French Opens: 2019-RU, 2018-RU, 2017-SF, 2016-SF, 2015-2nd

Aces: Coming off his first Grand Slam title, rallying to win the U.S. Open final after dropping the first two sets; no one had won that tournament in that fashion in 71 years. … 10 titles came on clay. … 22-4 at French Open over past 4 years; 3 losses to Nadal, 1 to Djokovic.

Matchup to Watch For: Faces 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic in 1st round; could play big server Reilly Opelka in 2nd.

Words: “The pressure got bigger and bigger, somehow, and it’s all gone now, obviously, because no matter what happens from now on, I can always say that I’m a U.S. Open champion. That’s absolutely amazing to me.” — Thiem.

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DANIIL MEDVEDEV

Seeded: 4

Ranked: 5

Country: Russia

Age: 24

2020 Match Record: 15-7

2020 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 7

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: RU, U.S. Open (2019)

Last 5 French Opens: 2019-1st, 2018-1st, 2017-1st, 2016-DNP, 2015-DNP

Aces: Despite all of his quick strides and climb up the rankings, has yet to win a match at Roland Garros in three appearances. … Lost his opening match on clay at the Hamburg Open this week after making a run to the U.S. Open semifinals.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face No. 13 seed Andrey Rublev, a long-time friend, in 4th round rematch of U.S. Open quarterfinal — but neither ever has won a French Open match.

Words: “Months ago, (if) someone would tell me I would make semis of U.S. Open, I would be super happy, because I was not feeling great about my game, great about my physical shape. I had, I want to say, huge troubles in practice. I was like, ‘OK, how I’m going to play?’” — Medvedev.

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ALEXANDER ZVEREV

Seeded: 6

Ranked: 7

Country: Germany

Age: 23

2020 Match Record: 12-7

2020 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 11

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: RU, U.S. Open (2020)

Last 5 French Opens: 2019-QF, 2018-QF, 2017-1st, 2016-3rd, 2015-DNP

Aces: Made Grand Slam semifinal debut at 2020 Australian Open, then reached final of U.S. Open before losing to Thiem in a fifth-set tiebreaker. Will be fascinating to see if he can put that disappointment behind him. … Averaged 5.9 double-faults in 2019, second-most on tour.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face No. 25 seed Alex De Minaur in 3rd round.

Words: “Yeah, I mean, I’m 23 years old. I don’t think it’s my last chance. I do believe that I will be a Grand Slam champion at some point.” — Zverev after loss in U.S. Open final.

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ANDY MURRAY

Unseeded

Ranked: 111

Country: Britain

Age: 33

2020 Match Record: 3-2

2020 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 46

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 3 — Wimbledon (2: 2013, 2016), U.S. Open (1: 2012)

Last 5 French Opens: 2019-DNP, 2018-DNP, 2017-SF, 2016-RU, 2015-SF

Aces: Given a wild-card entry; only man not from France to receive one. … Still working his way back from two hip operations; second-round showing at U.S. Open was first competition since November. … Reached at least the semifinals in past 4 appearances in Paris, and 5 of last 6, but he hasn’t entered the tournament since 2017.

Matchup to Watch For: Faces 3-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in 1st round

Words: “The more tournaments that you play, the more matches that you play, you build up that sort of robustness in your body, which right now I don’t really have.” — Murray.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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