Men's popcorn first rounds: Rafa gets tricky opener

Nadal, Thiem, Medevev, Tsitsipas and Goffin will be challenged from the get-go this Paris fortnight

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

The Roland-Garros singles draws were revealed on Thursday with some exciting opening-round match-ups expected to unfold over the first three days of the tournament.

Here are some stand-out first-round clashes to look forward to in men's singles.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [3] v Alexei Popyrin (AUS)

If Rafael Nadal plans on grabbing a record-extending 14th Roland-Garros crown this fortnight, he'll first have to navigate his way past 21-year-old Alexei Popyrin.

The Australian, who lost to Nadal in the Madrid Open last 16 earlier this month, is already a title winner this season - in Singapore - and is ranked 32 in the ATP's Race to Turn.


Popyrin owns several impressive victories in 2021 so far, including successes over the likes of Jannik Sinner, David Goffin and Reilly Opelka.

Alexei Popyrin, Madrid Open 2021© Antoine Couvercelle/FFT

Dominic Thiem (AUT) [4] v Pablo Andujar (ESP)

US Open champion and two-time Roland-Garros finalist Dominic Thiem will have to be sharp from the get-go as he takes on in-form Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar, who defeated Roger Federer last week en route to the semi-finals in Geneva.

Andujar has lost in the first round on his last three trips to Roland-Garros but Thiem has been struggling with his motivation and his form and will likely have his work cut out for him.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GER) [5] v Jeremy Chardy (FRA)

Greek No.5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is 2-1 head-to-head against Jeremy Chardy, who at 34 is enjoying a resurgent season that saw him make back-to-back semi-finals in Antalya and Melbourne (both ATP 250 events), and reach the quarter-finals in Dubai and Rotterdam (ATP 500s).

This will be their first meeting on clay.

Daniil Medvedev (RUS) [2] v Alexander Bublik (KAZ)

This match-up has fun written all over it with both players boasting huge personalities on court. World No.2 Daniil Medvedev is 0-4 throughout his career at Roland-Garros and openly professes his dislike of the clay.

Alexander Bublik is an entertaining character, who can hit anything from a tweener to an underarm serve and at 37 in the world, is one of the highest-ranked non-seeds in the draw. Make sure you tune into this one!

Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) v David Goffin (BEL) [13]

Just like he faced a talented Italian teenager in his opener last autumn at Roland-Garros (lost to Jannik Sinner in straights), David Goffin once again finds himself in the same position, this time taking on 19-year-old Grand Slam debutant Lorenzo Musetti in the first round in Paris.

Musetti, a recent semi-finalist on the clay courts of Lyon, arrives to the French capital ranked a career-high No.76 in the world and could give Goffin a serious scare.

Roland-Garros main draw action commences on Sunday May 30 and will conclude on Sunday June 13, 2021.