French Open draw creates possible Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal semifinals matchup
PARIS — In his quest to complete a career Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic could have to beat nine-time champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open semifinals.
Djokovic, who will face Lu Yen-hsun in the first round, was put in the same side of the draw as Nadal on Friday. The top-ranked Serb beat Nadal in the quarterfinals last year, the Spaniard’s second loss of his career at Roland Garros.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray could meet in the other semifinal match.
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams’ bid to equal Steffi Graf’s professional era record of 22 major titles is full of ambushes, including a possible quarterfinal match against Victoria Azarenka.
Djokovic has lost in the final on the red clay in three of the past four years. But winning the French Open would give him four consecutive major championships, something no man has achieved since Rod Laver won a true Grand Slam in 1969.
He arrives in the French capital with a 37-3 record, but on the back of a loss to Murray in the Italian Open final.
Murray is seeded second for the first time at Roland Garros and will face a qualifier in his first match.
Because of Roger Federer’s withdrawal, Nadal has been seeded No. 4, avoiding a possible quarterfinal rematch against Djokovic. Chasing his first major title since winning in Paris two years ago, Nadal takes on big server Sam Groth in the first round.
Djokovic should have few problems before the fourth round, where 14th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut could be waiting.
Williams, the defending champion in Paris, will open against 76th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova.
Before a potential quarterfinal match against Azarenka, the top-ranked American might also have to face Kristina Mladenovic and former champion Ana Ivanovic. In the semifinals, Williams could then be pitted against third-seeded Angelique Kerber, who beat her in the Australian Open final in January to win her first Grand Slam title.
Williams, who won her first title in nine months in Rome, has played only four tournaments this season.
"Four tournaments, three finals isn’t bad for everyone else, but then again I’m not everyone else," Williams said.
Margaret Smith Court (24) and Graf are the only players with more Grand Slam singles titles than Williams, who has never won back-to-back titles at Roland Garros.
In the bottom half of the draw, second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska will start her bid for a first major title against Bojana Jovanovski.