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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday May 23, 2024

Stan Wawrinka

Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray join Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal on the RG popcorn list.

Photo Source: Getty

The 2024 Roland-Garros draws are out and there are heaps of first-round popcorn to contemplate. Buckets!

Kick back and read up on six opening-round matches that you won’t want to miss when first-round action kicks off on Sunday May 26th in Paris.

Tennis Express

Rafael Nadal vs [4] Alexander Zverev

This is the big one. The one that sent shockwaves through the grounds and on social media on Thursday when the men’s singles draw was pulled. Zverev, fresh off the Rome title, is one of the hottest players in the sport right now, and here in Paris he has been extremely solid over the years. Especially of late: Zverev has reached at least the semifinals in each of his last three appearances.

And who could forget 2022, when Zverev and Nadal were tangled in a sweaty, grinding battle that took nearly three hours for the pair to get through a set and into a second-set breaker.

Then disaster struck. Zverev took a tumble in the backcourt and tore three ligaments in his ankle. He retired from the match, and took nearly a year to get back into decent form. Two years later, he’s looking lethal while Nadal, closer to retirement as he nears his 38th birthday, has looked like a shell of his former self this spring.

Strange as it seems, 14-time champion Rafael Nadal will need to flip the script in a big way if he is to get past Zverev. Can he do it? He’s Rafael Nadal, of course he can. Stay tuned…

Lucia Bronzetti vs Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka, still just five months into her comeback from maternity leave, has often talked about her desire to make improvements in her clay game. Here comes yet another chance to make strides as the four-time Grand Slam champion takes on Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti in her first match.

48th-ranked Bronzetti has a clay title (Rabat 2023) and final (Palermo 2022) to her name in the last two seasons, and owns a 19-16 lifetime record on the surface. She is 0-2 lifetime at Roland-Garros while Osaka is 7-5 on the Parisian clay.

Osaka went 4-3 on the clay this spring, reaching the round of 16 at Rome after earning wins over Clara Burel, Marta Kostyuk and Daria Kasatakina. The winner of this match will likely face Iga Swiatek in the second round.

Stan Wawrinka vs Andy Murray

Episode 23 of the epic “Big 5” rivalry that has captivated audiences for two decades will take place on the terre battue in round one. Wawrinka has taken six of seven clay court meetings with Murray, but the Scot’s biggest ever win on clay came against Wawrinka in the 2016 Roland Garros semis.

The pair’s first Grand Slam meeting since 2020 has a combined age of 76, with 39-year-old Wawrinka holding the upper hand in the age category. But both players still have plenty left to give and that’s why they’ll be out there battling tooth-and-nail in Paris.

Will it be the last Roland-Garros appearance for the loser? Time will tell...

Murray holds the 13-10 lifetime edge over the Stanimal, if you count their last meeting in 2023, at the Bordeaux Challenger – won by Wawrinka, 6-3, 6-0.

Zheng Qinwen vs Alizé Cornet

The iron woman of tennis, Alizé Cornet, is playing her last tour event in Paris, and you better believe that the Nicoise wants to add one more Top 10 win to her career CV.

Even if she loses, she'll be celebrated - Cornet will play her record 69th consecutive Grand Slam main draw, which is more than any other woman in Open Era Grand Slam history.

Cornet has 25 Top 10 wins to her name thus far, and she’ll try to get past the talented Zheng Qinwen for No.26. The seventh-seeded Chinese loves the clay, and is blossoming as a player in 2024. She reached her maiden Grand Slam final in Australia and is playing her first major as a Top 10 player.

Arthur Fils vs Matteo Arnaldi

A battle of talented young guns features the promising Frenchman Arthur Fils, who is a few weeks shy of his 20th birthday, and rising Italian Matteo Arnaldi, the 23-year-old World No.35. Arnaldi owns the 2-0 edge over the talented Fils – they went five sets in their first meeting at the 2023 US Open.

Yulia Putintseva vs Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens has reached the second week in nine of her 12 Roland Garros appearances. To do that again this year she’ll have to tread some serious challenges. The American, a former runner up in Paris who owns an impressive 35-12 record at the French Open, faces the ever feisty Yulia Putintseva in the first round.

Stephens defeated Putintseva in three sets last year in Paris in a third-round clash, but the Kazakhstani topped Stephens just a few weeks ago in Rome, 6-3, 6-2, in a second round clash.


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