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Nadal handed easy draw in Paris

Defending champion Nadal managed an easy draw at the French Open while Federer faced a tough second week.

india Updated: May 26, 2006 18:11 IST

Defending champion Rafael Nadal was handed a relatively easy draw at the French Open on Friday while world number one Roger Federer faces a tough second week.

Spain's Nadal, seeded second, will face Swede Robin Soderling in the first round with a likely fourth round clash against 14th seed Lleyton Hewitt, who is suffering from a foot injury.

A victory over Soderling, who has not made it past the third round on clay this season, would be Nadal's 54th consecutive win on the slow surface, breaking Argentine Guillermo Vilas's professional era record set in 1977.

At the top of the draw Federer takes on Frenchman Arnaud Clement, who beat Nadal in February on the way to the Marseille title, in the first round.

Nicolas Kiefer of Germany, the 13th seed, is his likely opponent for a quarterfinal spot.

However, the second quarter of the draw is tough, featuring former champions Gaston Gaudio, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya plus Nikolay Davydenko, all of whom could test Federer as the Swiss attempts to win the one grand slam crown to elude him.

Chile's Fernando Gonzalez is the most unfortunate seeded player because the ninth seed will take on Russian Marat Safin, a former world number one, in the first round.

Briton Andy Murray takes on fellow teenager and local favourite Gael Monfils in another enticing first round match.

In the women's draw, world number one Amelie Mauresmo should not be troubled until the quarter-finals when she faces a possible match-up against 11th seed Venus Williams.

France's Mauresmo, who has been an under-achiever on home clay, will start against American Meghann Shaughnessy.

The 2006 edition of Roland Garros will be deprived of last year's finalist Mary Pierce who has pulled out through injury.

Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne, the defending women's champion who is seeded fifth this year, takes on Estonian Maret Ani in the first round before starting an assault course of top clay-courters.

Henin faces a likely fourth-round match against 2004 champion Anastasia Myskina followed by a possible quarter-final against another Russian, third seed Nadia Petrova, who has won her last three clay court tournaments.

In the semi-finals, she could play compatriot Kim Clijsters if the 2003 finalist survives a possible match-up against either Russian Elena Dementieva or Swiss Martina Hingis.

Former world number one Hingis has not played at Roland Garros since a 6-4 6-3 defeat in the semi-final against Jennifer Capriati in 2001.

She is seeded 12th this year and starts against American Lisa Raymond after winning her first title, in Rome last weekend, since returning from a three-year 'retirement.'