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  • October 24, 2020

Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams learn opponents as French Open draw announced

Rafael Nadal will initiate his bid for a record-extending 13th French Open title versus Egor Gerasimov in the first round, while Serena Williams starts her bid for a record-equaling 24th major versus Kristie Ahn in all-American matchup.

Nadal, 34, who is seeded second and has never faced the 83rd-ranked Belarusian, is targeting to equal the absent Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles.

The sixth-seeded Williams, who turns 39 on Saturday, fell short in her bid to equal Margaret Court’s record at the US Open, losing to Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals. Williams has obtained the French Open three times, the first in 2002 and most recently in 2015.

Thursday’s draw at Roland Garros also pits top-ranked Novak Djokovic versus No. 80 Mikael Ymer of Sweden in their first career meeting.

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Djokovic, 33, is trying again for an 18th major title.

Like Williams, he fell short at Flushing Meadows but for a very different reason.

Djokovic, of Serbia, was kicked out for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat when angrily swiping away a tennis ball during a match. His only title at the French was in 2016; he lost the final in ’14 to Nadal and ’15 to Stan Wawrinka.

The draw was carried out electronically because there were no players present amid a strict coronavirus health and safety protocol.

Wawrinka, seeded 16th, faces another three-time major winner in Britain’s Andy Murray, the runner-up in 2016. Murray leads Wawrinka 12-8 overall but is still trying to get back to his best after having hip surgery last year.

Djokovic tuned up for this tournament with success at the Italian Open, beating Diego Schwartzman in the final for a record 36th Masters title. Schwartzman beat a patchy Nadal in the quarterfinals — the Spanish player’s first tournament in seven months after he skipped the US Open amid COVID-19 concerns.

Dominic Thiem, who beat Alexander Zverev in five sets in the US Open final for his first major, takes on big-hitting Marin Cilic in their first meeting at Roland Garros.

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Thiem has lost the past two finals at Roland Garros to Nadal.

Steve Carr

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