By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Rafa Nadal, who is gunning for a record-extending 11th French Open title, was handed a relatively easy path to the final at Roland Garros when the draw was made on Thursday.
The 31-year-old Spaniard, who is the top seed in Paris, will start his campaign against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov before a possible quarter-final against South African sixth seed Kevin Anderson and a last-four meeting against Marin Cilic or Juan Martin Del Potro.
“The last couple of weeks have been good. Of course having the success gives me more confidence and I’m always motivated here to play as well as possible,” said Nadal, who won claycourt titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome this season.
Novak Djokovic, the 2016 champion, will start his tournament against a qualifier, but has been drawn in the same half as in-form youngsters Dominic Thiem of Austria and Alexander Zverev of Germany.
Second seed Zverev and Thiem could face each other in the quarter-finals.
In the women’s draw, third-seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, who lifted the Suzanne Lenglen Cup in 2016, faces another former champion in Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in a compelling first round clash.
Defending champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia takes on Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova before a likely second-round meeting with Victoria Azarenka.
“I arrived yesterday and went training and I thought oh, it’s good to be back,” said the fifth-seeded Ostapenko.
Serena Williams, who dropped down the rankings after her pregnancy and is therefore unseeded, could face another former world number one, Maria Sharapova, in the fourth round.
Russian Sharapova missed last year’s tournament after being denied an invitation from organisers having returned from a doping ban.
World number one Simona Halep, last year’s runner-up, will take on American Alison Riske.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Andrew Heavens)