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Nadal drawn onto tricky path to fifth French Open title
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Rafael Nadal was handed a tough draw on Friday in his bid to clinch a record fifth successive French Open title.

The Spanish top seed, unbeaten at Roland Garros since his debut in 2005, finds himself in the same half as Briton Andy Murray and compatriot eighth seed Fernando Verdasco, who gave him a rough time in the Australian Open semi-finals.

After potential early clashes with former world number one Lleyton Hewitt and fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, twice a quarter-finalist, Nadal will possibly meet Verdasco in the quarterfinals before an expected semi encounter against third seed Murray.

Swiss second seed Roger Federer is set to face clay specialists in the early rounds while chasing the only grand slam title to have eluded him.

Despite a tough opening week with clay specialists Alberto Martin and Jose Acasuso lying in wait in the first two rounds, Federer will be happy to have avoided his current bete noire Murray. If the seeding works to plan, Federer will have a semi with world number four Novak Djokovic of Serbia.

In the women's draw, the Williams sisters have been kept apart while world number one Dinara Safina seems to be in the slightly easier half of the draw.

Safina, who has won two titles this month already in Rome and Madrid, should not be tested too much by Britain's Anne Keothavong in the opening round.

There are no big names liable to cross the Russian's path before a meeting with either defending champion Ana Ivanovic or Victoria Azarenka, seeded ninth, in the quarter-finals. But she is scheduled to meet Venus Williams in a rematch of their epic three-hour, three-set semi-final in Rome.

Number two seed Serena has the more clay-specialist half of the draw, with the likes of Flavia Pennetta (No.14) due to face her in the Round of 16 and Svetlana Kuznetsova (No.7) in the quarters.

The third quarter of the draw will also be hotly contested, with Elena Dementieva (No.4), Jelena Jankovic (No.5), Caroline Wozniacki (No.10) and Marion Bartoli (No.13) all in that part of the bracket.

(Xinhua News Agency May 23, 2009)

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