Nadal gets tough draw in bid for 10th French Open title
Paris — Unfortunately for Rafael Nadal, the French Open draw didn’t make things easy.
Fortunately, though, he is back in top form as he starts his quest for a 10th title at Roland Garros.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion was drawn in the same half as defending champion Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic and up-and-coming Dominic Thiem on Friday.
In addition, the fourth-seeded Nadal will also need to deal with the talented and unpredictable Benoit Paire in the first round.
“I know I need to be ready since the beginning, because I have a tough opponent in the first round,” Nadal said. “So I am focused on trying to work the right way.”
Nadal, 30, who retired last year before his third round match with a wrist injury, has a 72-2 record at the clay-court major and is the only player with nine trophies from one Grand Slam tournament.
This season, he has been the dominant player on clay, winning 17 straight matches on his favorite surface and three consecutive titles before Thiem halted his run in Rome last week.
In Paris, he could face Djokovic or Thiem in the semifinals.
“I had a lot of success on clay, winning three events out of four that I played,” Nadal said when asked about his fitness. “That’s great for me, no? It makes me happy to feel myself competitive and play well in every event that I played. I am very happy the way that I arrived here. Now I have to play well here.”
Roger Federer, who won the Australian Open in January, is skipping Roland Garros, focusing instead on the grass and hard court events.
Much has changed for Djokovic since he completed a career Grand Slam at the French Open last year by beating Andy Murray in the final. Djokovic, who lost his No. 1 ranking to Murray last year, has won only one of his last 11 tournaments.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be back and to look at this trophy. It brings back memories from last year,” Djokovic said at the draw ceremony.
The top-ranked Murray, who will open against Andrey Kuznetsov, was drawn in the same half as third-seeded and 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka, who he could meet in the semifinals.
In the absence of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, the women’s draw is wide open. An intriguing first round match-up will put defending champion Garbine Muguruza against 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone, while top-ranked Angelique Kerber will take on 40th-ranked Ekaterina Makarova.
Play begins on Sunday at Roland Garros.
When: Begins Sunday; women’s singles final June 10; men’s singles final June 11
Where: Roland Garros Stadium, Paris
TV: Tennis Channel and NBC
No. 1 seeds: Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber
Defending champions: Novak Djokovic and Garbine Muguruza