Nadal 0n Course for French Open Semi Against Djokovic

Defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain may have to play men’s top seed Novak Djokovic in the semifinals as he seeks a record eighth French Open tennis title.

Nadal, the third seed and men’s tournament favorite, will play his first round against 60th-ranked Daniel Brands of Germany. Australian Open champion Djokovic of Serbia, who has yet to win Roland Garros, was drawn against 57th-ranked David Goffin of Belgium in his first round. Nadal and Djokovic were drawn in the same half, meaning there won’t be a repeat of last year’s final between the two as they’re scheduled to meet in the last four.

Nadal made his comeback to the tennis tour in February after missing seven months with a knee injury. He said at the draw held today at Roland Garros that he’s “very happy,” to be back at his most successful Grand Slam event.

Djokovic may have to overcome Grigor Dimitrov in the third round, the No. 26 seed from Bulgaria who knocked him out of his opening round of the Madrid Masters earlier this month.

Second-seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland, the 2009 champion, was drawn in the opposite half to Nadal and Djokovic and will face a qualifier. Also in Federer’s half, fourth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain plays Australia’s Marinko Matosevic and fifth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych meets France’s Gael Monfils. Sam Querrey, the highest-seeded American man at No. 18, plays Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko.

Britain’s Andy Murray, the U.S. Open champion, withdrew from Roland Garros earlier this week with a lower-back injury.

Women’s Event

In the women’s draw, tournament favorite Serena Williams starts against 83rd-ranked Anna Tatishvili of Georgia. The 31-year-old American, the women’s top seed, lost in the first round of Roland Garros last year. Her only title in Paris was in 2002.

Defending champion Maria Sharapova of Russia, the second seed, was drawn against 42nd-ranked Su-Wei Hsieh of Chinese Taipei. Also drawn in Sharapova’s half was Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the third seed, who will play Russia’s Elena Vesnina.

Former champion Li Na of China meets Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues while Venus Williams, a five-time Wimbledon champion, plays Poland’s Urszula Radwanska. Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, a former world No. 1 who has recently struggled, faces Laura Robson, a former junior Wimbledon champion from Britain. Sloane Stephens of the U.S., who beat Serena Williams at the Australian Open to reach the last four, starts against Italy’s Karin Knapp.

The French Open, the world’s only clay-court major, starts May 26 at Roland Garros in Paris.

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