3 most unexpected French Open 1R clashes in tennis history ft. Rafael Nadal-Alexander Zverev

Rafael Nadal (left) and Alexander Zverev (Source: Getty)
Rafael Nadal (left) and Alexander Zverev (Source: Getty)

The French Open is not only a Grand Slam that grips tennis fans all over the world but also one that has produced a range of interesting matchups and some of the most memorable tennis matches of all time.

Rafael Nadal's record of 14 French Open titles in itself involves a range of interesting battles and as the King of Clay returns to his kingdom before biding adieu to the same, there is much excitement surrounding how his last run at Roland Garros is going to be.

Each edition of the French Open has had several enticing first-round encounters, including 2024. Be it big names, or experienced players facing popular youngsters, the crowd at the Stade Roland Garros have been treated to quite a few interesting fixtures in the tournament's first hurgle.

On that note, let's take a look at three unexpected first-round matches in the opening round of the French Open.

#3 Venus Williams vs Sloane Stephens in 2015


Former World No.1 Venus Williams was seeded 15th at the 2015 French Open and faced a then-22-year-old unseeded Sloane Stephens in the opening round. This was just two years after Stephens triumphed over Venus' sister Serena Williams at the 2013 Australian Open, where she went on to reach the semifinals.

Stephens caused a major upset by beating the five-time Wimbledon champion 7-6(5), 6-1 to progress to the second round. She went on to reach the Round of 16, where Serena Williams beat her 1-6, 7-5, 6-3

Sloane Stephens has a perfect record against Venus Williams so far, winning each of their two matches.

#2 Andy Murray vs Stan Wawrinka in 2024

One of the most shocking and exciting matchups of this year and the tournament, in general, is reminiscent of the time when the Big Four dominated the world of tennis and often extended to include Stan Wawrinka to form the Big Five.

Former World No.1 Andy Murray faces former World No.3 Stan Wawrinka in the first round of the French Open in what happens to be their 14th meeting since the first time they faced each other in a Davis Cup match almost two decades back in 2005.

In terms of their overall encounters, Murray leads Wawrinka 13-9 but when it comes to clay, the latter has a 5-1 lead. This includes the 2017 French Open semifinal where the Swiss came back from two sets down to win the match.

Murray and Wawrinka are currently ranked 75th and 97th respectively and aren't the same players they once used to be. However, they are still hugely admired by tennis fans and their first-round encounter is a highly-anticipated one.

#1 Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev in 2024

Rafael Nadal might be playing his last French Open tournament this year, a Championship where he holds the record of 14 titles. However, Nadal is set to face tough competition from World No.4 Alexander Zverev.

The two last met at Roland Garros in 2022 in their semifinal encounter when Zverev was forced to retire due to an injury that further kept him away from the tennis courts for six months. Nadal, on the other hand, won his last French Open and Grand Slam title at the tournament.

Rafael Nadal (right) and Alexander Zverev at the 2022 French Open
Rafael Nadal (right) and Alexander Zverev at the 2022 French Open

The draw because of which Nadal and Zverev, both big names in the world of tennis, face each other in the first round itself came as a surprise to many including former tennis player and Eurosport tennis expert Alex Corrteja who said (via Eurosport):

“We know what happened last time they played each other at Roland-Garros.

When asked what he anticipates from the match and what Nadal is likely to bring on court, the German said (via Daily Express):

“You are playing the statue. I mean, you're not playing the statue, you're playing the actual person. But you are playing Rafa Nadal. For me, in my mind, I'm going to play peak Rafa Nadal."
He added, “That's what I expect him to be. I expect him to be at his absolute best. I expect him to play the best tennis he's played in a long time on this court....So in my mind, I think he's going to be peak Rafa Nadal. I think he's going to be at his best, and that's my mindset going into this match.”

The much-awaited first-round match will take place on Monday, May 26.

What is the foot injury that has troubled Rafael Nadal over the years? Check here

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