Tough road ahead for Nadal

Champ may face Novak Djokovic in quarterfinals; easy route for Murray

Tough road ahead for Nadal

Rafa Nadal could face world number one Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the French Open after Friday's draw handed him the toughest of routes to a possible 10th title.

The Spaniard, seeded sixth after a disappointing year so far, would then face a potential semifinal against third seed Andy Murray and a final against 17-times grand slam champion Roger Federer.

The 28-year-old, who holds the record for titles at Roland Garros, will take on Frenchman Quentin Halys in the first round but life will get tricky with dangerous Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov a likely fourth round opponent.

"I need to win four matches before (possibly playing Djokovic)," Nadal, who has failed to win a claycourt title in Europe this season, said after the draw at Roland Garros.
"My draw is a tough one but I hope I will be ready to fight again," added Nadal, who has suffered only one defeat on the Parisian clay, in 2009.

World number one Djokovic will probably be less than happy about the prospect of facing Nadal in the quarterfinals as he bids to win the only major title to elude.
He lost to Nadal in two of the last three finals and in an epic semifinal in 2013.

Murray, who beat Nadal in the Madrid Masters final this month after winning his first claycourt title in Munich the week before, begins against a qualifier and has a possible quarterfinal clash against seventh seed David Ferrer of Spain.

Second seed Roger Federer, chasing his first grand slam title since 2012, takes on a qualifier in the first round and could face Frenchman Gael Monfils in the last eight.

Djokovic begins against Finnish journeyman Jarkko Nieminen on Sunday.
In the women's draw, holder Maria Sharapova of Russia, the second seed, will face Estonian Kaia Kanepi in the first round and possibly former runner-up Samantha Stosur of Australia in the third.

"I just focus on the first round really," said Sharapova, who won the Rome claycourt tournament last Sunday.

"It was a great week to have under my belt. It's nice to come into a grand slam with that level of confidence.

World number one Serena Williams, who takes on a qualifier in the first round, has a possible third-round encounter against Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, a former world number one.

In the fourth round she could face sister Venus, the 15th seed, and there is a possible semifinal clash against Czech Petra Kvitova, who ended her 27-match unbeaten run this season at the Madrid Open.
Predicting Rafael Nadal's downfall as he prepares to try and win a record-extending 10th French Open title is disrespectful to the Spaniard, double Roland Garros champion Maria Sharapova said.

"Everyone expects so much of Rafa at this time of the year. An individual loses a few matches, someone who's won this event, what is it nine times, I believe?

To put so many question marks, I almost think it's a little bit disrespectful," former world number one Sharapova of Russia told a news conference.

"He's an incredible champion, and he has no reason to be here doing it again, and his will and motivation to keep doing it and to keep proving to himself that he can do it again is pretty remarkable.
"It's actually been a little bit sad, because if I was in his shoes I'd be a pretty accomplished and satisfied player. Here he is just grinding away and proving everyone wrong. I think that's pretty respectful."

Fourteen-times grand slam champion Nadal, who has struggled to rediscover his top form after injury and illness last year, was handed a toughest route in this French Open.

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