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Djokovic faces tough route
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 21 - 05 - 2011

PARIS: Novak Djokovic's route to a maiden title at Roland Garros and the world No. 1 ranking could be a hazardous one following Friday's draw for the French Open which starts Sunday.
The Serbian second seed, unbeaten in 37 matches this season, is favorite to face five-time 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.
World No. 27 Del Potro, a Roland Garros semifinalist and US Open champion in 2009, is battling back up the rankings after a long-term wrist injury and is hoping to have fully recovered from a torn hip muscle that forced him to withdraw from the Madrid Masters earlier this month.
The dangerous Gasquet, meanwhile, has been rediscovering his touch, beating 2009 French Open champion Roger Federer in the Rome Masters where he reached the semifinals.
Nadal, whose only loss at Roland Garros came in 2009 when he he slumped to a fourth-round defeat by Robin Soderling, will start his campaign against the big-serving American John Isner and could play Swede Soderling in the quarterfinals.
“Rafa, you may have problems because the competition is very strong this year, especially with Novak Djokovic,” French federation president Jean Gachassin said at the draw ceremony.
World No. 3 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. He had to go through three tiebreaks against Lopez in Madrid and saved a match point.
Britain's Andy Murray, seeded fourth, has been handed a relatively easy draw as he will take on two qualifiers in the two opening rounds and a likely quarterfinal tie against Austrian Juergen Melzer, a semifinalist last year.
Former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero and Andy Roddick pulled out of the French Open after failing to recover from right shoulder injuries.
In the women's draw, world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, chasing her first Grand Slam title, will take on Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, who last year claimed former world No. 1 Dinara Safina's scalp in Paris. She could face last year's finalist Samantha Stosur of Australia for a place in the last four.
Seventh seed Maria Sharapova, one the favorites in the absence of Venus and Serena Williams after she won the Rome title, could play former world No. 1 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 quarterfinal against third seed Vera Zvonareva of Russia.
Schiavone and Stosur are both in the top half of the draw.


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