May 23, 2019 / 7:03 PM / a month ago

Draw hands Federer smooth start on French Open return

PARIS (Reuters) - Roger Federer was handed a comfortable-looking start in the French Open draw on Thursday as the 20-times Grand Slam champion makes his return to the tournament after a three-year hiatus.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - ATP 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 16, 2019 Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates after winning his third round match against Croatia's Borna Coric REUTERS/Matteo Ciambelli

The third-seeded Swiss will open his quest for a second Musketeers Cup against Italian Lorenzo Sonego, the world number 73, but faces a potentially tricky quarter-final against young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas who beat him at this year’s Australian Open.

Former world number one Federer, 37, is in the same half of the draw as claycourt master Rafa Nadal and could meet the Spaniard in the semis.

Defending champion Nadal, seeded second, will open up against a qualifier as he aims for a record-extending 12th title at Roland Garros.

“I had my first training today and I had good sensations,” said Nadal, who was given a tour of the renovated stadium by tournament director Guy Forget after winning his first claycourt title of the season at the Italian Open.

“It was very important for me to play well in Rome, I hope it’s a good sign for Roland Garros,” the Spaniard, who could face Japanese Kei Nishikori in the last eight, added.

World number one Novak Djokovic, who is looking to hold all four majors for the second time in his career, will take on Hubert Hurkacz with a possible quarter-final against German Alexander Zverev.

In the women’s draw, world number one Naomi Osaka will kick off her bid for a maiden French Open title against Slovak Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Defending champion Simona Halep of Romania, the third seed, will take on Australian Ajla Tomljanovic after being drawn in the same half as Osaka.

Serena Williams will face Vitalia Diatchenko in only her second match on clay this season after she retired from the Italian Open ahead of a second-round match against her sister Venus due to a knee injury.

With 23 singles Grand Slam titles to her name, the 10th-seeded American, on a quarter-final collision course with Osaka, is one short of the all-time record of Margaret Court.

One of the first-round clashes to watch is 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko against two-times Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka, with the winner likely to take on Osaka in the second round.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond

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