Nadal, Djokovic in same half of French Open draw

Three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal and world No.1 Novak Djokovic were placed in the same half of the French Open draw Friday.

The two stars could clash in the semifinals.

Nadal, No. 4 in the world rankings, is seeded third in Paris after No. 2-ranked Andy Murray withdrew with a back injury.

Nadal has won the last three French Open titles and took four others from 2005-08. Paul Ayme (1897-1900) and Bjorn Borg (1978-81) are the only other players to have won the event four consecutive times. Nadal is looking to do it for a second time.

Nadal is also trying to match the all-time record for French Open titles. Max Decugis won the event eight times from 1903-14. The Open was first contested in 1891.

Nadal”s efforts to win again could see a semifinal pairing against Djokovic, who is seeking his first French Open title, the only championship missing from a career Grand Slam. Nadal beat Djokovic in four sets in last year”s Open final.

Nadal is 36-2 this year with six tournament titles and two runner-up finishes.

Djokovic is 28-4 with three championships, including the Australian Open.

Fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic, seeded eighth, would be Djokovic”s quarterfinal opponent if the draw plays to form. Seventh-seeded Richard Gasquet is the second-highest seeded player in Nadal”s section.

World No. 3 Roger Federer, seeded second, won the French Open in 2009, completing his career Grand Slam, and has finished second to Nadal four times. His semifinal opponent could be fourth-seeded David Ferrer. Before that, if the tournament results follow the seedings, Federer would meet No. 6-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Ferrer would draw fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych.

Top 10 players missing from the men”s draw are Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, who is out of the event due to a viral illness. With one U.S. Open title each, Murray and del Potro are the only players other than Djokovic, Federer and Nadal to have won a men”s Grand Slam title since the 2005 Australian Open, a period covering 32 major tournaments.

The 2013 French Open begins Sunday and closes with the men”s singles final June 9.

Copyright 2013 by United Press International