PARIS – Kei Nishikori received the ninth seed in the men’s singles draw at the French Open getting under way Sunday for a career high at a Grand Slam tournament.
The 24-year-old Nishikori, who is currently ranked 10th in the world, will play World No. 62 Martin Klizan of Slovakia in the first round at Roland-Garros. Klizan won his second ATP Tour title at the BMW Open that concluded on May 4.
Nishikori will be the highest seeded Japanese player at a Grand Slam since the start of the Open Era in 1968.
If he advances past the first round, he could face No. 8 seed Milos Raonic of Canada in the fourth round and possibly Novak Djokovic, the No. 2 seed, if he reaches the quarterfinals.
Rafael Nadal will open his quest for a ninth French Open crown with a tie against U.S. veteran wildcard Robby Ginepri following the draw which treated the Spaniard kindly.
The 27-year-old has a 59-1 win record at Roland Garros since he first appeared in Paris in 2005, his only loss being to Robin Soderling of Sweden in a 2009 fourth round upset.
But Nadal’s uncustomary struggles on clay in the buildup to Roland Garros means that he is not the outstanding favorite he usually is, with Djokovic also fancied to win what would be his first French Open title.
Still, the draw handed Nadal a relatively more straightforward passage through the rounds than Djokovic.
Nadal is facing fourth-round and quarterfinal matchups against fellow Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer, and although both me have beaten him in the buildup to Roland Garros, he has dominated them throughout his career.
Past them, his likeliest semifinals opponents would be either Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka or Britain’s Andy Murray, who are slated to meet in the quarterfinals. Murray led Nadal 4-2 in the deciding set in the Rome quarterfinals last week but eventually lost 7-5
Nadal, whose only tournament win on clay in the buildup came in Madrid where opponent Nishikori had to pull out in the deciding set of the final, said that he had fully recovered from his efforts in Rome where he played a series of tough three-setters before losing in the final to Djokovic.
“During the claycourt season I get a little better week by week,” he said.
“Last week in Rome it was tough physically. I played a lot of time, but in the end sometimes you need these things, No?
“I was happy with the way I finished in Madrid and Rome. Not that happy about what I did in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.”
Djokovic will start comfortably enough with a match against Portugal’s Joao Sousa, but he could be faced with dangerous Cilic in the third round.
Federer, whose one French Open title in Paris came in 2009, is a potential semifinal opponent if the Swiss fourth seed can get past Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the third quarter of the draw.
Federer opens up against Lukas Lacko of Slovakia and could run early into the talented Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, but his path looks clear enough through to the last eight and a matchup with Berdych.
Having played just once — and lost once — since his wife Mirka gave birth to the couple’s second set of twins, he said that things were “fairly normal.”
“Clearly there is a bit more happening and there is a bit more you can do if you want to, but Mirka takes care of most of it,” added Federer.