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Djokovic To Play Starace At Roland Garros; Nadal Aims For Record Seventh Title

Paris, France

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is looking to lift a record seventh Roland Garros trophy.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will open his Roland Garros campaign to become the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam against Potito Starace of Italy in Paris. Rod Laver was the last player to have held all four major championship titles at the same time in 1969.

Djokovic has a 25-7 tournament record and was a semi-finalist in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Last year, he saw his 41-match unbeaten start to the season end at the hands of Roger Federer. Djokovic could meet No. 14 seed Fernando Verdasco in the Last 16 and fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or No. 11 seed Gilles Simon in the quarter-finals. Interestingly, the top seed has won the title on just 12 occasions in the 44 Roland Garros tournaments played since 1968.

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Defending champion Rafael Nadal is bidding to become the first man to lift seven singles trophies on the Paris clay. He currently shares the record with Bjorn Borg, who won six titles in 1974-75, 1978-81. Nadal will first look to improve his 45-1 record at Roland Garros against Italian Simone Bolelli in the first round. Nadal could meet his good friend No. 13 seed Juan Monaco or No. 19 seed Milos Raonic in the Last 16, with a potential quarter-final clash against eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic or No. 12 seed Nicolas Almagro.

Only five players in tennis history have won seven titles at the same major championship. They includes Richard Sears (US Championship 1881-87), William Renshaw (Wimbledon 1881-86, 1889), Bill Larned (US Championship 1901-02, 1907-11), Bill Tilden (US Championship 1920-25, 1929) and Pete Sampras (Wimbledon 1993-95, 1997-2000). Nadal has won 35 clay court titles during his career, which is third only to Thomas Muster (40) and Guillermo Vilas (45).

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Roger Federer, the 2009 titlist and 16-time major champion, challenges Germany's Tobias Kamke in the first round. He could overtake Jimmy Connors' 233-49 record for most Open Era Grand Slam match wins if he advances to the third round. The Swiss, appearing at his 50th successive major, is currently 232-35 overall. He has a 49-12 lifetime mark at Roland Garros. Federer may face No. 28 seed Andy Roddick in the third round, No. 15 seed Feliciano Lopez in the Last 16 and either No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych or No. 9 seed and recent Estoril Open titlist Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals.

Federer, who turned 30 on 8 August 2011, is looking to become the 11th different man aged 30 or over to win a Grand Slam title since 1968. The last man to win a major title aged over 30 was Andre Agassi, who was 32 years 272 days old when he won the 2003 Australian Open. Andres Gomez was the last man to win Roland Garros aged over 30, when he won the 1990 title aged 30 years 103 days.

World No. 4 Andy Murray, who has been drawn in the same half of the draw as Nadal, will face Japan's Tatsuma Ito in his first match. Murray could potentially play Bernard Tomic in the third round, followed by a Last 16 meeting with No. 17 seed Richard Gasquet or No. 16 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov. Sixth seed David Ferrer, who plays Lukas Lacko in the first round, or No. 10 John Isner may be last eight opponents for the Scot.

There are some interesting first-round matches, including No. 22 seed Andreas Seppi versus former World No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko. Grigor Dimitrov takes on Donald Young in a battle of two young guns, while Tipsarevic faces Sam Querrey and Marcos Baghdatis challenges Juan Ignacio Chela.

French wild card Arnaud Clement is playing in his 55th Grand Slam at 2012 Roland Garros, which puts him in joint eighth place with Australian Mark Woodforde on the list for most Open Era Grand Slam appearances among male players. Fabrice Santoro leads with 70 overall. Clement is set to play Alex Bogomolov Jr. in the first round. The last French finalist at Roland Garros was Henri Leconte in 1988. In 2008, Gael Monfils became the first Frenchman to reach the semi-finals since Sebastien Grosjean in 2001.

Nadal took part in the ceremony, drawing the women's seeds. Li Na, the 2011 women's champion, drew the men's seeds. Other players in the draw were placed electronically.

The total prize money for this year's men's singles championship is €6,555,000, an 8.7 per cent increase on 2011. The champion will receive €1,250,000 and the runner-up €625,000.

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