At the French Open, it’s Rafael Nadal versus the lot and Iga Swiatek versus the field

French Open Tennis. Roland-Garros 2022.

Rafael Nadal strode Thursday morning onto Court Philippe Chatrier, where he has lifted a record 13 Coupes des Mousquetaires, and spotted Iga Swiatek seated in a chair. He diverted his path from passing behind Swiatek to approaching in front of her, stuck out his right hand and offered a “congrats” and a hand clasp.

Maybe not a torch passing, but it laid clear how different this French Open is looking.

Nadal, for so long the dominant figure at Roland Garros, enters this tournament as the joint third favorite in the men’s draw. Swiatek, who broke through to win this major at age 19 in 2020, is now so far ahead of her foes that she may be favored over the rest of the field in Paris.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Nadal was carrying multiple tennis rackets, some towels and a racket bag over his right shoulder. He was wearing a white T-shirt with an image printed smack in the middle of his chest of a forearm and fist connected by a white wristband bearing his bull logo, an image that conveys his trademark fight and determination.

He will need every bit of that these next two weeks. And it might not be enough.

For the first time, Nadal enters the French Open having not won a clay-court tournament so far in the season (not counting the pandemic-shortened 2020). After going 21-1 in the winter hard-court swing, he lost before the semifinals of two clay events.

He won the Australian Open in January, breaking his tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the men’s career major titles record (21). Starting in March, a rib injury followed by the return of chronic foot pain that had him considering retirement last year stunted his prep for Paris.

“I am not injured. I am a player living with an injury,” he said last week after losing in the third round of the Italian Open, one of four clay events he previously won at least 10 times. “What can happen in the next couple of days, I don’t know. What can happen in one week, I really don’t know now.”

Nadal often downplayed his chances going into past majors (including before Australia), but now he is 35, older than any previous French Open singles champion in the Open Era (since 1968).

“Suffering after [the Italian Open] for a couple of days, but I feel better, no?” Nadal said Friday. “That’s why I’m here.

“My real goal is just practice well, put myself in a position to be competitive since the very first round, and then let’s see what can happen.”

He may have to go through not only his longtime rival Djokovic (who beat Nadal in last year’s semifinals in Paris), but also his 19-year-old countryman Carlos Alcaraz, who won his last two clay events, including back-to-back match victories over Nadal and Djokovic.

Thursday’s draw only made the task more difficult. Nadal is in Djokovic’s quarter and Alcaraz’s half. Stefanos Tsitsipas, who blew a two-set lead over Djokovic in last year’s final, is the only man out of the top five favorites in the bottom half. The Greek was a distant fourth among the favorites, but after the draw pulled even with Nadal behind Djokovic and Alcaraz.

Swiatek has no company, oddsmakers say. The only person in Paris who may know what it’s like to be so favored is years-ago Nadal.

“The way that she’s playing this year looks unstoppable,” Nadal said, “but let’s let her play with calm and without an extra pressure.”

The Polish star was gifted the No. 1 ranking when Australian Ash Barty abruptly retired in March. She earned the right to keep it solely on her own merit. Swiatek is on a 28-match win streak, with 19 of the last 20 victories coming in straight sets.

If she lifts the trophy on June 4, she will have the longest WTA Tour run of victories since Venus Williams in 2000.

“I already know that I did some great stuff this season, so I feel like I can just play freely and not think I have to win some tournaments, or I have to win some matches or I have to save some points,” she said after winning her fifth consecutive tournament in Rome last week.

The women’s tour has changed mightily in the last year.

Barty, a dominant No. 1, won Wimbledon and the Australian Open and left the sport for a second time before turning 26. Serena Williams, now 40, hasn’t played since Wimbledon. Naomi Osaka came into last year’s French Open having won the previous two majors, but she took a break last summer after what happened in Paris and enters this tournament unseeded without much match time on clay.

Swiatek’s toughest test could come in a potential fourth round against 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep of Romania. No. 3 seed Paula Badosa of Spain could await in the semifinals. Tunisian Ons Jabeur is the favorite in the other half of the draw.

Swiatek won her most recent meeting with all of them.

It appears Nadal will not be the only player offering her a congratulatory handshake on Chatrier over the next two weeks.

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw

Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They meet in Friday’s semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw

IOC board recommends withdrawing International Boxing Association’s recognition

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Boxing

The IOC finally ran out of patience with the International Boxing Federation on Wednesday and set a date to terminate its Olympic status this month.

While boxing will still be on the program at the 2024 Paris Games, the International Olympic Committee said its executive board has asked the full membership to withdraw its recognition of the IBA at a special meeting on June 22.

IOC members rarely vote against recommendations from their 15-member board and the IBA’s ouster is likely a formality.

The IOC had already suspended the IBA’s recognition in 2019 over long-standing financial, sports integrity and governance issues. The Olympic body oversaw the boxing competitions itself at the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021 and will do so again for Paris.

An IOC statement said the boxing body “has failed to fulfil the conditions set by the IOC … for lifting the suspension of the IBA’s recognition.”

The IBA criticized what it called a “truly abhorrent and purely political” decision by the IOC and warned of “retaliatory measures.”

“Now, we are left with no chance but to demand a fair assessment from a competent court,” the boxing body’s Russian president Umar Kremlev said in a statement.

The IOC-IBA standoff has also put boxing’s place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games at risk, though that should now be resolved.

The IOC previously stressed it has no problem with the sport or its athletes — just the IBA and its current president Kremlev, plus financial dependence on Russian state energy firm Gazprom.

In a 24-page report on IBA issues published Wednesday, the IOC concluded “the accumulation of all of these points, and the constant lack of drastic evolution throughout the many years, creates a situation of no-return.”

Olympic boxing’s reputation has been in question for decades. Tensions heightened after boxing officials worldwide ousted long-time IOC member C.K. Wu as their president in 2017 when the organization was known by its French acronym AIBA.

“From a disreputable organization named AIBA governed by someone from the IOC’s upper echelon, we committed to and executed a change in the toxic and corrupt culture that was allowed to fester under the IOC for far too long,” Kremlev said Wednesday in a statement.

National federations then defied IOC warnings in 2018 by electing as their president Gafur Rakhimov, a businessman from Uzbekistan with alleged ties to organized crime and heroin trafficking.

Kremlev’s election to replace Rakhimov in 2020 followed another round of IOC warnings that went unheeded.

Amid the IBA turmoil, a rival organization called World Boxing has attracted initial support from officials in the United States, Switzerland and Britain.

The IBA can still continue to organize its own events and held the men’s world championships last month in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

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