PARIS, May 21 – Four-time winner Rafael Nadal claimed the first victory of the 2010 French Open on Friday without hitting a ball after seeing defending champion Roger Federer handed a potentially tougher draw.Federer, whose Roland Garros win in 2009 allowed him to complete a career Grand Slam, opens against Australian Davis Cup player Peter Luczak and could face Swiss compatriot Stanilas Wawrinka in the fourth round.
However Robin Soderling, who sent Nadal crashing to his first French Open defeat in 2009, could be a quarter-final opponent as could Latvia’s in-form Ernests Gulbis, the man who beat Federer at the Rome Masters in April.
Should Federer make the semi-final, fourth-seeded Briton Andy Murray, who has a 6-5 career advantage over the Swiss may be waiting.
Murray has an intriguing first round clash with France’s Richard Gasquet.
Second seed Nadal, fresh from sweeping all three claycourt Masters title and the overwhelming favourite to regain his Roland Garros title, will face French wildcard Gianni Mina, the world 653, in his first round.
Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who has lost three times in four years to Nadal in Paris, is a possible third round opponent.
Nadal’s Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco, who has a 0-10 against the world number two, is a potential quarter-final opponent. World number four Novak Djokovic is seeded to meet Nadal in the semi-finals.
In the women’s draw, top seed Serena Williams was handed a testing path with four-time champion Justine Henin a possible quarter-final opponent.
Henin, the winner in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 before sensationally quitting the sport on the eve of the 2008 event, is playing here for the first time since her return to the game.
Belgium’s former number one lost in three sets to Williams in the final of the Australian Open in January, a result that gave the American a 12th Grand Slam title.
Also in Williams’s top half of the draw is another former world number one, Maria Sharapova, another possible last eight opponent.
Williams starts her French Open campaign against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele while Henin faces Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova in her opener.
Venus Williams, the second seed and runner-up to her sister in 2002, faces Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder in her opener while defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, the sixth seed, starts against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.
World number three Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who has been struggling with an ankle injury, tackles Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva in the first round.