Paris - Novak
Djokovic and Rafael Nadal could meet for the 50th time after they were
placed on a French Open semi-final collision course on Friday.
World number one and top seed Djokovic, who turns 29 on the opening
day of the tournament on Sunday, needs a Roland Garros title to complete
a career Grand Slam after losing three finals in four years, including
last season to Stan Wawrinka.
Should Djokovic and nine-time French Open champion Nadal meet in the
last-four it will be their 50th career clash in a rivalry which began in
2006 at Roland Garros.
Djokovic has the edge at 26-23, claiming the pair's last seven encounters.
Fourth seed Wawrinka is scheduled to take on second seed Andy Murray in the other semi-final.
Top seed Djokovic, bidding for a 12th career major, starts his
campaign against Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun, the world number 100 who made the
Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2010.
Djokovic is seeded to face Tomas Berdych in the last-eight while he
could tackle volatile Australian Bernard Tomic in the fourth round.
Tomic was accused by the Serb of lacking commitment after a tame exit at the Madrid Masters last month.
Nadal, who lost to Djokovic in the quarter-finals in 2015, had
originally been set to be seeded at five until 2009 champion Roger
Federer withdrew through injury on Thursday.
Nadal starts his French Open against big-serving Sam Groth of
Australia with a potential quarter-final against home hope, and two-time
semi-finalist, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
With his 30th birthday just around the corner, Nadal has arguably the
toughest draw of the top men but will be buoyed by a recent return to
form which saw him claim the Monte Carlo and Barcelona titles.
Italy's Fabio Fognini, who came back from two sets down to beat Nadal
at the US Open last year, is a possible third round opponent.
Rising Austrian Dominic Thiem, the man who knocked Federer out in Rome, is lying in wait in the round of 16.
Murray, fresh from beating
Djokovic in the Rome Masters final, will meet a qualifier in the first
round with a potential quarter-final against Japan's Kei Nishikori.
Murray has been handed a relatively smooth path although a
mouth-watering clash with Nick Kyrgios of Australia is a potential
last-eight match-up should Nishikori stumble.
The Japanese fifth seed has never got past the quarter-finals in
Paris but was runner-up to Nadal this year on clay in Barcelona and a
semi-final loser to Djokovic in Madrid and Rome.
Nishikori starts against Italian veteran Simone Bolelli.
Wawrinka opens against Lukas Rosol, the Czech who shocked Nadal at
Wimbledon in 2012, while his potential last-eight rival would be
Canada's Milos Raonic.
In the women's draw, defending champion and top seed Serena Williams,
bidding for a fourth Paris title, starts against Slovakia's Magdalena
Rybarikova, the world number 76.
The 27-year-old Slovak has never made it beyond the second round in Paris.
Williams, just one short of Steffi Graf's Open era record of 22
majors, could face 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone in the third round.
Former world number one and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria
Azarenka is a potential quarter-final foe for the 34-year-old American.
Fifth seed Azarenka, a semi-finalist in 2013, opens against Italy's Karin Knapp.
Second seed Agnieszka Radwanska is scheduled to face 2014 runner-up
Simona Halep in the last eight. Radwanska, yet to get past the
quarter-finals, takes on Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski first up.
Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, the third seed, is lined
up for a last-eight duel with 2015 semi-finalist Timea Bacsinszky.
Kerber starts against Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens.
Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza and US Open runner-up Roberta
Vinci is the other potential quarter-final if seedings go to plan.
The women's tournament is missing two-time champion Maria Sharapova
who is serving a doping suspension and the injured Caroline Wozniacki.