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Nadal stands in the way


Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic


Novak Djokovic

World number one Novak Djokovic is on a French Open semi-final collision course with nine-times champion Rafael Nadal after the draw was made yesterday.

The Serb, who holds 11 grand slam titles but is still chasing his first win at Roland Garros, will start his campaign against Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun. Nadal has been paired with big-serving Australian Sam Groth.

The Spaniard, promoted to fourth seed after Roger Federer pulled out citing fitness concerns, could meet France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals.

In the other half of the draw, second-seeded Briton Andy Murray is on course to meet Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori in the last eight and defending champion and third seed Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals.

French hopes of lifting the trophy for the first time since Yannick Noah won in 1983 took a hit when former semi-finalist Gael Monfils - a perennial crowd favourite in Paris - pulled out because of a virus.

In the women's draw, top seed, defending champion and strong favourite Serena Williams takes on Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova in the first round.

She faces a potential quarter-final against former world number one Victoria Azarenka and last-four clash with German third seed Angelique Kerber, who beat her in this year's Australian Open final.

Williams' title victory in Rome last weekend was her first for nine months, a huge stretch of time for the woman who has dominated tennis in recent years.

Even if Williams had not won Rome, picking another potential favourite for Roland Garros would have been extremely difficult.

So inconsistent have the rest of the leading women been that US Open champion Flavia Pennetta re-entered the top 10 this week despite having retired at the end of last season.

The French Open starts tomorrow and ends on June 5 with the men's final.