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Williams to face Pliskova in Paris; Nadal drawn against Dolgopolov

Serena Williams

2018 French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 27 May-10 June
Coverage: Daily live radio and text commentaries on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website

Three-time champion Serena Williams will play Czech Kristyna Pliskova in the first round of the French Open.

The 36-year-old American is playing her first Grand Slam since giving birth in September and is unseeded.

British number one Johanna Konta faces Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, while Kyle Edmund – the leading British man as Andy Murray recovers from injury – meets young Australian Alex de Minaur.

Ten-time winner Rafael Nadal opens against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Two other British players are also in the singles draw at Roland Garros – Heather Watson will face France’s Oceane Dodin in the women’s and Cameron Norrie meets Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk in the men’s.

The clay-court tournament – the second Grand Slam of the year – starts in Paris on Sunday.

Serena v Sharapova on the cards?

Former world number one Williams has only played four tour matches since returning to the sport, dropping to 453rd in the rankings as a result.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion is able to play at Roland Garros by using her protected ranking from when she stopped playing before her daughter Alexis was born.

However, there is no protected seeding policy in place on the WTA Tour.

The WTA says it will review the rules – which players including Williams’ rivals Maria Sharapova and current world number one Simona Halep have questioned – before 2019.

But it means Williams will face Pliskova, ranked 70th in the world.

The American could then meet long-time rival Sharapova, who is seeded at a Slam for the first time since returning from a 15-month doping ban, or sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, the former world number one and sister of Kristyna, in the fourth round.

Sharapova, who won the title in 2012 and 2014, and Karolina Pliskova both begin their campaigns against qualifiers.

Who do the Britons face?

Konta, 27, has never won a match in the Roland Garros main draw and the 22nd seed hopes to end that unwanted record against world number 93 Putintseva.

The British number one has beaten Putintseva in both of their meetings – and both came on clay.

British number two Watson has reached the second round on five occasions – without progressing any further – and comes into the tournament having ended a dismal run of eight straight defeats with a win in Lyon this week.

The 26-year-old plays the tall Dodin, ranked 60 places below Watson at 133rd, for the first time.

Edmund, 23, goes into his first Slam as the British number one on the back of a fabulous year that has seen him rise to 17th in the world.

He has to get past 19-year-old wildcard De Minaur, who has risen rapidly up the ranks to 106th over the past year but was just short of automatic qualification at Roland Garros.

Norrie, 22, has climbed to the verge of the top 100 to earn his place in the Roland Garros draw for the first time and is rewarded with a match against Gojowczyk.

Djokovic drawn in tough quarter

Former world number one Novak Djokovic is seeded 20th after struggling with an elbow injury in recent months and will play a qualifier in the first round.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion was picked out in Grigor Dimitrov’s quarter of the draw and could face the Bulgarian fourth seed in the last 16.

Belgium’s David Goffin or Australia’s Nick Kyrgios could lie beyond that for the Serb, while second seed Alexander Zverev is a potential semi-final opponent.

The 21-year-old German, who has won clay-court titles in Munich and Madrid this year, faces Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in his opener.

Halep’s bid for first Grand Slam title

World number one Simona Halep starts her bid for a first Slam title against Alison Riske of the United States, while second seed Caroline Wozniacki – who lifted her first major by beating the Romanian in the Australian Open final – also faces an American in Danielle Collins.

Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza, who won at Roland Garros in 2016, meets another former champion in 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.

Defending champion Jelena Ostapenko, seeded fifth, begins against Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova, with fourth seed Elina Svitolina – who won the Italian Open in Rome last week – meets Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.

Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

With only four matches under her belt in the past 16 months – and no clay court match practice whatsoever – Serena Williams will be vulnerable early on. But she will, I’m sure, be encouraged to see she cannot face a top-10 player before the fourth round.

Rafael Nadal has won 79 of his 81 matches at Roland Garros, and it is striking that his principal rivals like Alex Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic are all in the other half of the draw.

The British players cannot grumble about their opening round draw. If Kyle Edmund makes the progress his seeding suggests, he is projected to face Marin Cilic in the fourth round.

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BBC Sport – Tennis

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