Nadal to face Isner in opener
Defending French Open champions Rafael Nadal and Francesca Schiavone were given first-round matches in Friday’s draw against Americans who have won a combined two matches at Roland Garros.
The top-ranked Nadal’s bid to equal Bjorn Borg’s record of six titles at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament will begin against John Isner, who is best known for winning the longest match in tennis history, 70-68 in the fifth set at Wimbledon last year.
Play begins Sunday at the French Open, where Nadal is 38-1 and Isner is 2-2.
”Always unforgettable memories, no? Seriously, just to be back to this tournament is a really special feeling,” Nadal said. ”You remember a lot of things from the past years, so in general I feel a little bit like home.”
Schiavone, the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam tournament, is seeded fifth this year and will start off against Melanie Oudin. She lost her only match at Roland Garros last year in the first round.
Second-ranked Novak Djokovic, who has won all 37 matches he’s played this season, will face Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands in the first round. Djokovic could face tests from 2010 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina or big-serving Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the third round, and then No. 13 Richard Gasquet of France or No. 23 Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil in the fourth.
Djokovic lost the first set against Bellucci before coming back to win their semifinal match at the Madrid Masters on clay this month.
Australian Open champion Djokovic and 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer were drawn to meet in the French Open semifinals. Nadal could meet No. 4 Andy Murray in the semifinals, while the Spaniard’s quarterfinal opponent could be No. 5 Robin Soderling, the only man to beat him at Roland Garros.
Soderling was the runner-up in Paris each of the last two years, after upsetting Nadal in the fourth round in 2009, and Federer in the quarterfinals in 2010.
Federer’s first opponent is Feliciano Lopez of Spain. While Federer has beaten Lopez all eight times they’ve met previously, their most recent match was close as can be: Federer won 7-6 (13), 6-7 (1), 7-6 (7) in Madrid.
Potential women’s quarterfinals include No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki against 2010 runner-up Sam Stosur, four-time major champion Kim Clijsters against three-time major winner Maria Sharapova, No. 3 Vera Zvonareva against Schiavone, and No. 4 Victoria Azarenka against No. 6 Li Na.
Clijsters is at the French Open for the first time since 2006. Her first-round opponent is 100th-ranked Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus. Wozniacki opens against 40-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan.
According to the WTA, this is the first time in the Open era – which began in 1968 – that there are no American women seeded at the French Open.