Djokovic, Nadal semi clash looms in Paris

Former world No. 1 Andre Agassi (left) at Roland Garros with French Open defending champion Novak Djokovic, who hired the American as his coach this week, after losing to 20-year-old Alexander Zverev of Germany in the final of the Italian Open last S
Former world No. 1 Andre Agassi (left) at Roland Garros with French Open defending champion Novak Djokovic, who hired the American as his coach this week, after losing to 20-year-old Alexander Zverev of Germany in the final of the Italian Open last Sunday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Serb hopes Agassi's influence will turn his season around to seal French title defence

PARIS • Defending champion Novak Djokovic and nine-time winner Rafael Nadal were drawn yesterday to face each other in a blockbuster French Open semi-final.

Nadal is chasing a 10th title at Roland Garros while second seed Djokovic, working with new coach Andre Agassi, is looking to defend the only Grand Slam title he still holds.

World No. 1 Andy Murray is seeded to face 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in the last four.

Murray starts against Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov, Djokovic tackles Spanish clay courter Marcel Granollers, while Nadal meets combustible Frenchman Benoit Paire.

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If the seedings work out, last year's runner-up Murray, who is reportedly suffering from an illness, would face Japan's Kei Nishikori in the last eight.

The other quarter-finals would see Wawrinka meet 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, Nadal would meet Milos Raonic, while Djokovic could take on Dominic Thiem.

"It was one of my last dreams in terms of tournaments that I wanted to win here," said Djokovic at the draw yesterday. "It was missing from my list so I ticked it off and got the full set of Grand Slams.

"Looking at the trophy again brings back lots of memories. It was one of my most special feelings."

Rising star Alexander Zverev, the ninth seed who comprehensively demolished Djokovic in the Italian Open final last Sunday, was drawn to meet veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the first round.

In the women's draw, top seed Angelique Kerber meets experienced Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the first round and is drawn to face defending champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the semis.

"I am super-excited to be here. I am preparing the best I can but there is no magic pattern," said Muguruza, who comes into the tournament having suffered a neck injury in Rome last week.

Muguruza has a tough opener against former champion Francesca Schiavone.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova was drawn to face 2014 runner-up Simona Halep, who has an ankle injury, in the semi-finals but will start against Zheng Saisai of China.

If the seedings work out, Kerber will face former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the last eight, with Muguruza taking on Dominika Cibulkova.

Elina Svitolina would face Halep, whom she defeated in the Rome final, while Britain's Johanna Konta would be Pliskova's last-eight rival.

Petra Kvitova was included in the draw after recovering from being stabbed during a burglary at her home last December.

The Czech, who said this week she was set to play at Wimbledon where she has twice won the title, has not played competitively since the attack, which left her with serious injuries to her left playing hand.

The 27-year-old will be seeded 15th thanks to her protected ranking and will start off with a first round against American Julia Boserup.

Several top names will not feature in this year's tournament as 18-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is skipping the claycourt season, two-time champion Maria Sharapova was denied a wild card after returning from a doping ban, and three-time winner Serena Williams is expecting a child.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Djokovic, Nadal semi clash looms in Paris'. Print Edition | Subscribe