Rafael Nadal claimed the first victory of the French Open on Friday after defending champion Roger Federer was handed a tricky draw while Serena Williams was on collision course with long-time rival Justine Henin.
Federer, whose Roland Garros win in 2009 allowed him to complete a career Grand Slam, opens against Australia’s Peter Luczak and could face Swiss compatriot Stanilas Wawrinka in the fourth round.
However, last year’s runner-up Robin Soderling, who sent four-time champion Nadal crashing to his first French Open defeat in 2009, could be a quarter-final opponent.
The same applies to Latvia’s in-form Ernests Gulbis, the man who beat Federer at the Rome Masters in April and Spain’s Albert Montanes who defeated the top seed in the semi-finals in Estoril.
Should Federer make the semi-final, fourth-seeded Briton Andy Murray, who has a 6-5 career advantage over the Swiss, may be waiting. Murray has an intriguing first round clash with France’s Richard Gasquet.
Second seed Nadal, fresh from sweeping all three claycourt Masters title and the overwhelming favourite to regain his Roland Garros title, will face French wildcard Gianni Mina, the world 653.
Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who has lost three times in four years to Nadal in Paris, is a possible third round opponent. Nadal’s Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco, who has a 0-10 against the world number two, is a potential quarter-final foe.
In the women’s draw, top seed Serena Williams, the 2002 champion, was handed a testing path with four-time champion Justine Henin a possible quarter-final opponent.
Henin, the winner in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 before sensationally quitting the sport on the eve of the 2008 event, is playing here for the first time since her return to the game.
Serena starts her French Open campaign against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele while Henin faces Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova.
Venus Williams, the second seed, plays Patty Schnyder in the first round while defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, the sixth seed, starts against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.