It’s been 18 years since the top seed at a Grand Slam wasn’t Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Andy Murray.
That streak – dating back to Andy Roddick being seeded No. 1 at the 2004 Australian Open, where he lost in the quarter-finals – could be broken at the French Open.
Djokovic is currently No. 1 in the world but may head to Paris as the second seed, depending how he fares at the Italian Open this week.
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What does Djokovic need to do to stay as No. 1?
Having made the final in Rome last year, Djokovic has 600 points to defend on his ranking this week.
He currently holds a 270-point lead over world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who is not playing in Rome as he recovers from injury, but only has 10 points dropping from his ranking after losing his first match last year.
To stay as world No. 1 and be top seed for the French Open, Djokovic will have to at least reach the semi-finals this week. That would guarantee him enough ranking points to stay ahead of Medvedev. If Djokovic loses before the semi-finals then Medvedev, who had a brief stint as world No. 1 earlier this year, will return to the top.
Medvedev is set to return to action next week at the Geneva Open and will likely then play the French Open.
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However, the draw for the French Open will be done before the Geneva Open finishes - and the world rankings will not be updated until after the Grand Slam - so even if Medvedev wins on his return he will not be No. 1 in Paris, unless Djokovic falls before the semi-finals this week.
Medvedev could also overtake Djokovic again after the French Open.
The Serbian has 2,000 points to defend after winning the title last year and will also drop 250 points in early June from his victory at the 2021 Belgrade Open. Medvedev has just 360 points to defend in Paris from making the quarter-finals last year, so there could be a big swing after the tournament.
What are the benefits of being No. 1?
Whether Djokovic is top seed or second seed in Paris will not impact his draw. Either way he will not be able to meet Medvedev until the final, and will be drawn to face either the third seed (most likely Alexander Zverev) or the fourth seed (Stefanos Tsitsipas or Rafael Nadal) in the semi-finals.
Zverev looks to be locked in as No. 3 for the French Open unless he wins in Rome and Djokovic doesn’t make the quarter-finals, in which case the German will move up to No. 2 behind Medvedev. That scenario would see Djokovic slip down to the third seed.
If Djokovic and Medvedev are No. 1 and No. 2 it seems likely that all of the top seeds would prefer to land in the Russian's half of the draw, given he is just returning from injury and has not had great results on clay in the past. If Nadal, for example, was drawn in Medvedev’s half of the draw he could face him in the second week but would not meet Djokovic until the final.
Given the seedings at the moment there's a chance the three men's favourites, Djokovic, Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, could all end up in the same half of the draw. That would only be avoided if they were all among the top four seeds, which can't happen unless there are withdrawals.
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What about Nadal?
Nadal is in a close battle with Tsitsipas to see who gets the fourth seed in Paris.
Nadal, a 13-time champion at the French Open, won the Italian Open last year so has 1,000 points to defend. Tsitsipas only made the quarter-finals in 2021 so has only 180 points to hold.
Nadal started the week with a healthy lead over the Greek (6,435 points to 5,750 points), but in the live rankings he has slipped behind as he is defending champion. Nadal will need to better Tsitsipas’ result in Rome to ensure he goes into the French Open as world No. 4.
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When could Alcaraz get to No. 1?
Carlos Alcaraz is being talked about as a future world No. 1 and multiple Grand Slam champion after his incredible season.
The 19-year-old won his second Masters title at the Madrid Open and is up to No. 6 in the world rankings. His position won’t be impacted this week as he has decided not to play in Rome and instead prepare for the French Open.
Alcaraz is currently on 4,773 ranking points, so still has ground to make up on those above him. Victory at the French Open would earn him 2,000 points, but that would likely not be enough to get to No. 1, depending how other results go in Rome and Paris.
With very few points to defend this year though, it seems likely that Alcaraz will continue to rise quickly if he keeps up his stunning form.
Who could fall after French Open?
Djokovic is at the most risk as he has the most points to defend, and then it’s last year’s runner-up Tsitsipas. The Greek has not been in his very best form on clay after winning Monte Carlo and has 1,200 points dropping in Paris. He also has 250 points going from his ranking the week before the French Open unless he defends his title in Lyon.
Nadal and Zverev were beaten in the semi-finals last year.
When does the grass season start?
When the curtain comes down in Paris it’s straight onto the grass.
There are ATP 250 events in Germany and the Netherlands starting on June 6, with Queen’s and Halle the following week. There are two more events in Mallorca and Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon kicks off on June 27.
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