Defending champion Nadal gets kind draw

PARIS: Rafael Nadal will open his quest for a ninth French Open crown with a tie against US veteran wildcard Robby Ginepri following Friday’s draw which treated the Spaniard kindly. The 27-year-old has a 59-1 win record at Roland Garros since he first appeared in Paris in 2005, his only loss being to Robin Soderling of Sweden in a 2009 fourth round upset. But Nadal’s uncustomary struggles on clay in the buildup to Roland Garros means that he is not the outstanding favourite he usually is, with world number two Novak Djokovic also fancied to win what would be his first French Open title.

Still, the draw handed Nadal a relatively more straightforward passage through the rounds than Djokovic. Nadal is facing fourth-round and quarterfinal matchups against fellow Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer, and although both me have beaten him in the buildup to Roland Garros, he has dominated them throughout his career. Past them, his likeliest semifinals opponents would be either Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka or Britain’s Andy Murray, who are slated to meet in the quarterfinals. Murray led Nadal 4-2 in the deciding set in the Rome quarterfinals last week but eventually lost 7-5

Nadal, whose only tournament win on clay in the buildup came in Madrid where opponent Kei Nishikori of Japan had to pull out in the deciding set of the final, said that he had fully recovered from his efforts in Rome where he played a series of tough three-setters before losing in the final to Djokovic. Djokovic will start comfortably enough with a match against Portugal’s Joao Sousa, but he could be faced with dangerous Croat Marin Cilic in the third round. If he comes through that, the Serb could face top home hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last 16, and either fast-rising Milos Raonic of Canada, who ran him close last week in Rome, or Japanese star Nishikori in the quarterfinals before an eventual semifinal against Federer.

Federer, whose one French Open title in Paris came in 2009, is a potential semifinal opponent if the Swiss fourth seed can get past Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the third quarter of the draw. Federer opens up against Lukas Lacko of Slovakia and could run early into the talented Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, but his path looks clear enough through to the last eight and a matchup with Berdych. Having played just once – and lost once – since his wife Mirka gave birth to the couple’s second set of twins, he said that things were “fairly normal.”

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Aaj Kal