PARIS, May 25: Novak Djokovic’s bid to win a fourth consecutive Grand Slam championship — and first at the French Open — might require a semi-final victory over Roger Federer.
Friday’s draw set them up to face each other in Paris at the same stage as last year, when Federer beat Djokovic in four epic sets to end the Serb’s 43-match winning streak that dated to December 2010.
That was Djokovic’s last loss at a major tournament: Since then, he won the titles at Wimbledon, the US Open and Australian Open.
He’s trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four Grand Slam trophies in a row.
Djokovic’s quarter-final opponent could be No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.
Other possible quarter-final match-ups: Federer vs 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro or No. 7 Tomas Berdych; six-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal vs No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic; and No. 4 Andy Murray vs No. 6 David Ferrer. The highlight of the women’s quarter-finals set up in Friday’s draw could be Serena Williams against Maria Sharapova.
Williams owns 13 major titles, including the 2002 French Open, while Sharapova is hoping to complete a career Grand Slam with her first title in Paris.
The other possible women’s quarterfinals: No. 1-seeded and Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka vs US Open champion Sam Stosur; defending champion Li Na vs Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova; and No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska vs No. 8 Marion Bartoli.
In her first Grand Slam tournament since revealing she has an autoimmune disease, seven-time major champion Venus Williams could meet Radwanska in the second round and 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third.
Seeded No. 1 at the French Open for the first time, Djokovic will play 97th-ranked Potito Starace of Italy in the first round and could face two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt in the second.
Starace was ranked as high as 27th in 2007, but later that year he was suspended for six weeks and fined $30,000 for betting on tennis matches involving other players.
Nadal will begin his attempt to win a record seventh title at Roland Garros, breaking a tie with Bjorn Borg, by facing 111th-ranked Simone Bolelli of Italy.—AP