Djokovic, Nadal lined-up for 50th meeting at Roland Garros


Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal could meet for the 50th time after they were placed on a French Open semi-final collision course on Friday.

World number one and top seed Djokovic, who turns 29 on the opening day of the tournament on Sunday, needs a Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam after losing three finals in four years, including last season to Stan Wawrinka.

Should Djokovic and nine-time French Open champion Nadal meet in the last-four it will be their 50th career clash in a rivalry which began in 2006 at Roland Garros.

Djokovic has the edge at 26-23, claiming the pair’s last seven encounters.

Fourth seed Wawrinka is scheduled to take on second seed Andy Murray in the other semi-final.

Top seed Djokovic, bidding for a 12th career major, starts his campaign against Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun, the world number 100 who made the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2010.

Djokovic is seeded to face Tomas Berdych in the last-eight while he could tackle volatile Australian Bernard Tomic in the fourth round.

Tomic was accused by the Serb of lacking commitment after a tame exit at the Madrid Masters last month.

Nadal, who lost to Djokovic in the quarter-finals in 2015, had originally been set to be seeded at five until 2009 champion Roger Federer withdrew through injury on Thursday.

Nadal starts his French Open against big-serving Sam Groth of Australia with a potential quarter-final against home hope, and two-time semi-finalist, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

With his 30th birthday just around the corner, Nadal has arguably the toughest draw of the top men but will be buoyed by a recent return to form which saw him claim the Monte Carlo and Barcelona titles.

Italy’s Fabio Fognini, who came back from two sets down to beat Nadal at the US Open last year, is a possible third round opponent.

Rising Austrian Dominic Thiem, the man who knocked Federer out in Rome, is lying in wait in the round of 16.

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Murray, fresh from beating Djokovic in the Rome Masters final, will meet a qualifier in the first round with a potential quarter-final against Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

Murray has been handed a relatively smooth path although a mouth-watering clash with Nick Kyrgios of Australia is a potential last-eight match-up should Nishikori stumble. AFP

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