FRENCH OPEN TThhee

Djokovic faces tough ti­tle route at Roland Gar­ros THE DARK HORSE AMID DJOKOVIC, NADAL FURORE

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

PARIS — No­vak Djokovic’s route to a maiden ti­tle at Roland Gar­ros and the world num­ber one rank­ing could be a haz­ardous one fol­low­ing yes­ter­day’s draw for the French Open which starts to­mor­row.

The Ser­bian sec­ond seed, un­beaten in 37 matches this sea­son, is favourite to face five-times cham­pion and top seed Rafael Nadal in the fi­nal on June 5, but will have to keep his guard up if he is to reach a show­down with the king of clay.

Fol­low­ing a first-round match against the tal­ented Dutch­man Thiemo De Bakker, Djokovic — who has beaten Nadal in four fi­nals this sea­son, in­clud­ing two on clay in Madrid and Rome — could face Ar­gen­tine Juan Martin del Potro in the third round and France’s Richard Gas­quet, the 13th seed, in the fourth.

Nadal, whose only loss at Roland Gar­ros came in 2009 when he slumped to a fourth-round de­feat by Robin Soder­ling, will start his cam­paign against Amer­i­can John Is­ner and could play Swede Soder­ling in the quar­ter-fi­nals.

World num­ber three Federer, who has man­aged just one ti­tle this year in Doha, will take noth­ing for granted in a high-risk first round en­counter against Spa­niard Feli­ciano Lopez.

In the women’s draw, world num­ber one Caro­line Woz­ni­acki, chas­ing her first grand slam ti­tle, will take on Ja­panese vet­eran Kimiko Date-Krumm.

Sev­enth seed Maria Shara­pova could play for­mer world num­ber one and sec­ond seed Kim Cli­jsters in the last eight.

Holder Francesca Schi­avone, of Italy, seeded fifth, is pro­jected to face Ser­bia’s Je­lena Jankovic in the fourth round be­fore a pos­si­ble quar­ter-fi­nal against third seed Vera Zvonareva of Rus­sia.

— Reuters. PARIS — Roger Federer be­lieves the pres­sure on Rafael Nadal to win a record-equalling sixth French Open, and on No­vak Djokovic to ex­tend his un­de­feated run, could play into his hands at Roland Gar­ros.

Federer, a 16-time ma­jor win­ner, who won his only French Open in 2009 to com­plete a ca­reer Grand Slam, has slipped into Roland Gar­ros qui­etly and with­out the tra­di­tional fuss.

“I think this year, maybe they ex­pect more from Rafa and No­vak, and that could be a good thing for me and more pres­sure for them,” said Federer.

The Swiss, who could face Djokovic in the semi-fi­nals, is happy that his 2009 tri­umph here — helped by Nadal’s sen­sa­tional early exit at the hands of Robin Soder­ling — lifted one of his great pro­fes­sional bur­dens.

“I have never been the over­whelm­ing favourite go­ing into the French Open be­cause of Rafa’s great record here over the years,” he said. “The year be­fore, and the years be­fore that, I was try­ing to win Paris for the first time. So I’ve al­ways had that big cloud hang­ing over, and the ‘am I ever gonna win the French Open’ ques­tion.”

Federer de­feated Soder­ling in the 2009 fi­nal be­fore the bighit­ting Swede gained his re­venge by dump­ing the Swiss out in the quar­ter-fi­nals in 2010.

— Sapa-AFP.

PHOTO: AP

Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic, pic­tured here at a Roland Gar­ros train­ing session yes­ter­day, has been handed a dif­fi­cult route to the fi­nal in this year’s French Open, which be­gins to­mor­row.

PHOTO: AP

Roger Federer.

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