Nadal handed tricky path to fifth French title

By Julien Pretot

World number two Nadal, however, did not seem too worried by his fate as he was spotted practicing on a sunbathed center court while holders Roger Federer and Svetlana Kuznetsova were making Friday's draw.

Nadal, beaten for the first time at Roland Garros last year, is in the same half as fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and third seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia.

Following a first-round match against Frenchman Gianni Mina, the Spaniard could meet Australian Lleyton Hewitt and big-serving Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia before a possible quarter-final against Verdasco and a semi-final with Djokovic.

Nadal refused to look beyond his first-round opponent. Asked who were his main rivals in the May 23-June 6 tournament, he said: "First round, no? I play against a wildcard from France and that's my toughest opponent now."

Nadal, wearing a white cap back to front, practiced for more than an hour on center court, looking relaxed as he punished his sparring partner with his trademark forehand winners in front of his uncle and coach Toni Nadal.


Murray has lost two of his three matches against Gasquet but won the last one in a five-set thriller at Wimbledon in 2008.

"He's very, very talented. Very good. It's going to be a tough match," he said.

"The one thing I know is it's not a match I'm going into being the Favorite, which probably hasn't happened in a slam for quite a few years."

World number one Federer takes on Australian Peter Luczak in the first round en route to a possible fifth French Open final against Nadal, whom he has never beaten at Roland Garros.

He could face France's Gael Monfils in the fourth round and Swede Robin Soderling, whom he defeated in last year's final to win his first and only Paris crown.

In the women's draw, four-times champion Justine Henin, who returned to tennis in January after 20 months in retirement, got a difficult draw with a possible third-round clash against Russia's Maria Sharapova.

A quarter-final match with world number one Serena Williams, who takes on Swiss Stefanie Voegele in the first round, looms for the 22nd-seeded Belgian.

Holder Kuznetsova, seeded sixth, is in the other half, and has an easier draw with a possible quarter-final against third-seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki.

She then could face second seed Venus Williams in the semis but the American does not have an easy path to get there.

She takes on Swiss Patty Schnyder in the first round before a possible fourth-round clash with Russian Nadia Petrova or France's Aravane Rezai, who beat her in the Madrid final last Sunday.

(Editing by Clare Fallon and Ken Ferris)