Top seed Novak Djokovic and defending champion Rafael Nadal could clash in the quarter-final of the 2015 French Open, according to Friday’s draw.
The earliest the pair have met in the second Grand Slam of the year was at the same stage- the first of their six meetings at the Roland Garros- in 2006, when the Spaniard went all the way to claim his second career Grand Slam title.
Nadal, 29, won a record ninth title in the only claycourt Major last year, but struggled in the latter part of that year with injury and illness which has made him susceptible to just a second ever defeat since making his debut five years ago.
The Marjorcan- seeded sixth in Paris this year- have been drawn in the same half as Briton Andy Murray and the Serb, both of whom are bidding for their first triumph in the French Open; meaning the odds are stacked against him but who else is there on parade that could dethrone the King of Clay.
Roger Federer, who won his only title in 2009; the only year Nadal failed to reach the finals- begins his campaign against Colombian qualifier Allejandro Falla. The second seed could meet home favorite Gael Monfils in the fourth round and compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka in the Last eight.
Federer could face either Kei Nishikori (5th seed) or Tomas Berdych (4th seed)- the highest two seeds in the top second half- in the semi-finals.
Nadal has beaten Djokovic, 28, successively at the Roland Garros since 2012, including two finals. But Djokovic arrives Paris first in overall match wins this season (36-2) and on a 22-match winning run. The defending Australian Open champion is tied for fifth with Murray when it comes to match wins on clay (10-0).
“He is still playing his best tennis on clay courts in Paris,” Djokovic said, on the prospect of facing Nadal in the quarter-finals. “He has lost only one match in his entire career here. That record speaks enough about his level of play.
“I played him in the semifinals and finals more than a few times. We are both aiming to play our best and as the tournament progresses we will already play at a high level.
“I just need to do what I do best, taking one day at a time, having the proper positive mindset that doesn’t allow me to think too much in advance.”
Seventh seed and 2013 runner-up David Ferrer, who challenges Lukas Lacko in round one, and ninth seed Marin Cilic are the other contenders in the same half as Djokovic and co.
Women’s singles top seed Serena Williams will start off her bid for a third French Open title against Czech qualifier Andrea Hlavackova and British number one Heather Watson faces Mathilde Johansson.
Defending champion Maria Sharapova will play Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi.