Updated: May 21, 2010, 12:45 PM ET

Top seeds face daunting path

Garber By Greg Garber

PARIS -- As the reigning French Open champion, Roger Federer accepted the honor of pulling the chips for the 32 women's seeds Friday. In building the draw, he didn't do No. 1 seed Serena Williams any favors.

A little later, 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova returned the favor to the men's No. 1 seed -- also in a bad way.

Both Federer and Williams have unusually daunting journeys ahead if they want to reach the semifinals here at Roland Garros.

"When you're sitting in the room, you feel like, 'Ah, if only she would have picked that guy first,'" said Federer, who historically declines to attend these draw ceremonies. "You're like, 'Oh, no.' You don't even want to start thinking that way.

"The draws anyway are always going to be tough, especially in a big tournament like here in Paris. It was a bit -- I don't want to say 'awkward' -- but it was nerve-racking in some ways."

Just wait until the balls start to fly Sunday, Roger. Here are the projected paths of the top-seeded players, based on their draw, current form and history on clay:


No. 1 Roger Federer: Ugh. Assuming he gets through his first two matches (against Peter Luczak and then Alejandro Falla or Janko Tipsarevic), Feliciano Lopez might be waiting in the third round. French favorite Gael Monfils is tracking for a fourth-round matchup, and No. 5 seed Robin Soderling -- the man who took down Rafael Nadal here last year -- could be the opponent in the quarterfinals.

Degree of difficulty: 8 out of 10

No. 2 Rafael Nadal: Rafa plays Gianni Mina of France in the first round and should cruise past potential opponents like Lleyton Hewitt and Ivan Ljubicic. The first real challenge likely will come in the quarters, if No. 7 seed Fernando Verdasco makes it that far. No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic, No. 6 seed Andy Roddick or No. 9 seed David Ferrer could await in the bottom bracket's semifinal.

Degree of difficulty: 6 out of 10

No. 3 Novak Djokovic: Based on the way he was laboring Friday, Djokovic will be lucky to get by Evgeny Korolev in the first round. Hitting with Andy Murray on the Suzanne Lenglen court, he labored -- breathing heavily and coughing up phlegm in what seemed to be the lingering effects of asthma that forced him to retire from the Serbia Open. Korolev has lost six of his past seven matches, but Djokovic looked something less than fit. He's also got Sam Querrey and Juan Carlos Ferrero in his quarter of the draw. Ferrer or Roddick would likely await in the quarters.

Degree of difficulty: 8 out of 10

No. 4 Andy Murray: The British hope probably has the easiest path to the semifinals among the top challengers. He opens with Richard Gasquet and projects to emerge in the quarters opposite No. 8 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Degree of difficulty: 7 out of 10

No. 6 Andy Roddick: With a lot of luck, he could win his first three matches (although they could all be difficult), but No. 9 seed David Ferrer would lurk in the fourth round. Ferrer has won 27 clay-court matches -- far and away the highest total on the ATP World Tour. Even if Roddick won that match, Djokovic could be waiting in the quarters and Nadal in the semis.

Degree of difficulty: 9 out of 10


No. 1 Serena Williams: A brutal top-quarter bracket for Serena, loaded with French Open favorite No. 22 seed Justine Henin and No. 7 Samantha Stosur. If Serena can win her first four matches -- a good possibility -- the quarters could feature a relatively early dramatic matchup.

Degree of difficulty: 8 out of 10

No. 2 Venus Williams: The bottom half of the draw is far easier than the top. After a tricky opening match against Patty Schnyder, Venus could cruise until a possible fourth-round match with Aravane Rezai, the surprise winner in Madrid -- over Venus in the final -- or the dangerous Nadia Petrova, a three-time quarterfinalist on clay this year.

Degree of difficulty: 7 out of 10

No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki: The Danish teenager withdrew Thursday from the tournament in Warsaw with an ankle problem that first surfaced more than a month ago in Charleston. There is a real chance she won't even make it to the starting line here. Even if she does, she won't be at full speed, and her quarter of the draw is full of danger. Venus would await in the semifinal.

Degree of difficulty: 8 out of 10

No. 6 Svetlana Kuznetsova: The defending champion is 1-3 in recent clay matches this season; she lost in the first round of Madrid to Shahar Peer. The most in-form player in the section is No. 24 seed Lucie Safarova, a quarterfinalist in Stuttgart and Rome and a semifinalist in Madrid. With Wozniacki ailing, Sveta could sneak through to a quarters matchup with Safarova.

Degree of difficulty: 7 out of 10

No. 4 Jelena Jankovic: This looks like the easiest section in the women's draw. Yanina Wickmayer has been troubled by injury, as has No. 9 seed Dinara Safina. No. 8 seed Agnieszka Radwanska is the potential opponent in the quarterfinals. The semis could bring the winner of a Serena-Henin match.

Degree of difficulty: 7 out of 10

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.


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