French Open 2020 draw: Stan Wawrinka faces Andy Murray in opener; Serena Williams plays Kristie Ahn

Rafael Nadal, who is seeded second, is aiming to equal the absent Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam titles.

The Associated Press September 25, 2020 00:25:29 IST
French Open 2020 draw: Stan Wawrinka faces Andy Murray in opener; Serena Williams plays Kristie Ahn

File photo of Stanislas Wawrinka (left) with his former coach Magnus Norman after winning the 2015 French Open. AFP

Paris: Rafael Nadal will begin his bid for a record-extending 13th French Open title against Egor Gerasimov in the first round, while Serena Williams starts her attempt for a record-equaling 24th Major against Kristie Ahn in all-American matchup.

The 34-year-old Nadal, who is seeded second and has never faced the 83rd-ranked Belarusian, is aiming to equal the absent Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam titles.

The sixth-seeded Williams, who turns 39 on Saturday, fell short in her bid to equal Margaret Court's record at the US Open, losing to Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals. Williams has won the French Open three times, the first in 2002 and the last in 2015.

Thursday's draw at Roland Garros also pitted top-ranked Novak Djokovic against No. 80 Mikael Ymer of Sweden in their first career meeting.

Djokovic is trying again for an 18th Major title.

Like Williams, he fell short at Flushing Meadows but for a very different reason.

The 33-year-old Serb was kicked out for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat when angrily swiping away a tennis ball during a match. His only title at the French was in 2016 and he lost the final in ‘14 to Nadal and ’15 to Stan Wawrinka.

The draw was carried out electronically because there were no players present amid a strict coronavirus health and safety protocol.

Wawrinka, seeded 16th, faces another three-time major winner in Britain’s Andy Murray, the runner-up in 2016. Murray leads Wawrinka 12-8 overall but is still trying to get back to his best after having hip surgery last year.

Djokovic tuned up for this tournament with victory at the Italian Open, beating Diego Schwartzman in the final for a record 36th Masters title. Schwartzman beat a patchy Nadal in the quarter-finals — the Spaniard's first tournament in seven months after he skipped the US Open amid COVID-19 concerns.

Dominic Thiem, who beat Alexander Zverev in five sets in the US Open final for his first Major, takes on big-hitting Marin Cilic in their first meeting at Roland Garros.

Thiem has lost the past two finals at Roland Garros to Nadal.

Zverev plays Austrian Dennis Novak.

Top-seeded Simona Halep, the 2018 champion and two-time runner-up, faces Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo.

US Open champion Naomi Osaka pulled out of the tournament with an injured hamstring.

Halep is seeded first because No 1 Ash Barty of Australia opted out of defending her title amid coronavirus concerns.

Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin, seeded fourth, plays Russian Liudmila Samsonova; third-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine is up against Varvara Gracheva, and the 10th-seeded Azarenka faces Danka Kovinic.

Also, 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia takes on American Madison Brengle and the 40-year-old Venus Williams, runner-up to her sister in 2002, opens against Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Sloane Stephens, the 2018 runner-up, is seeded 29th and takes on Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.

The number of fans allowed at Roland Garros has been set to 5,000 per day, and tournament director Guy Forget is hoping that number will not be reduced further after the government announced on Wednesday that a new limit of 1,000 people will be imposed at big events in big cities amid growing coronavirus concerns. It's still unclear whether those guidelines will affect Roland Garros, which begins on Sunday and ends on 11 October.

“The last we heard officially from the police prefecture was that 5,000 is very, very safe," Forget said. "We are playing the tournament on the size of 15 football fields and an outside stadium.”

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