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Djokovic fired up for French Open

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a backhand during a practice session on day one of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 27, 2012 in Paris, France.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a backhand during a practice session on day one of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 27, 2012 in Paris, France. Getty Images

WORLD No 1 Novak Djokovic will continue his quest for a non-calendar year grand slam when he begins his French Open campaign against Italian Potito Starace tonight.

In the open era, only Rod Laver has held the four major titles - the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open - at the same time.

Standing in his way, however, is arguably the greatest clay court player of all time, Rafael Nadal.

The Spaniard already has six French Open titles to his credit, and an extraordinary 45-1 record at Roland Garros, the only loss coming in a fourth-round upset to Sweden's Robin Soderling in 2009.

While Djokovic beat Nadal twice on clay last year during his spectacular start to the year, the Serbian said he was under no illusion about how difficult it would be to add a French Open to his five majors.

"He (Nadal) is always favourite for this tournament ... he's most successful tennis player ever to play on this surface," Djokovic said.

"You can always expect him to be at his top, especially at the later stages of Grand Slams and tournaments.

"Here he's going to be even more difficult to beat because it's the best of five."

Provided Djokovic gets past Starace, he would face a second-round match-up against Aussie veteran Lleyton Hewitt who has been given a wildcard into the tournament.

Djokovic is drawn to play Roger Federer in the semi-final, while Nadal has a likely match-up against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer or Andy Murray in the semis.

The women's winner is much harder to predict with the last four French Open winners - Li Na, Francesca Schiavone, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic - not to mention 2002 winner Serena Williams, all in the line-up.

And that's not including two of the in-form players of 2012, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

US Open winner Samantha Stosur opened her campaign last night against Great Britain's Elena Baltacha, while great interest will centre on the first round performance of Ipswich teenager Ashleigh Barty.

The 16-year-old, who won junior Wimbledon last year, is the youngest player in the tournament and has had the misfortune to draw the 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova in the first round.

Barty also received a wildcard into this year's Australian Open where she was beaten 6-2 7-6 by Georgia's Anna Tatishvili.

Barty is five months younger then Monica Seles was when she won at Roland Garros in 1990 at 16 years and six months.

Topics:  french open, grand slam, novak djokovic, rafael nadal, tennis


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