Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal faces a tricky path to a ninth French Open title. Reuters

Rafael Nadal could well have to face all three of the men who have beaten him on clay this year if he is to retain his French Open title. The top-seeded Spaniard, who has won an incredible eight times on his nine visits to Roland Garros, has been less dominant than ever before on clay heading into the year’s second Grand Slam. Friday’s draw in Paris, though, offered him the chance for swift revenge.

Nicolas Almagro, who bested him in Barcelona, is a possible fourth round opponent, while another compatriot, David Ferrer, who ousted him in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo, awaits at the same stage in Paris. If it happens, it will be a repeat of last year’s French Open final, which Nadal won in straight sets to continue his dominance of the event.

This has been the first clay-court season in which the 27-year-old has failed to win at least two events, but he feels he is rounding into form having won the title in Madrid and reached the final in Rome last week.

"The dynamic is positive, it's true, so that's always important for the confidence,” Nadal said after Friday’s draw, according to Reuters. “I felt that in Rome I was able to play without that anxiety that I played with in the first two tournaments and some moments in Madrid, too.

“Rome, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Barcelona is past now. We are here in Roland Garros, and the only thing that matters now is have a good practice.”

Nadal’s tough draw continues with Stan Wawrinka his seeded opponent in the semifinals. The Swiss third seed won his maiden Grand Slam title t this year’s Australian Open, beating Nadal in the final, and also claimed the title in Monte Carlo. Should Nadal progress unscathed he will then be expected to meet Novak Djokovic.

The pair have met in the last two years at Roland Garros, with Nadal coming out on top in close matches on both occasions. Yet the Serbian second seed came out on top in Rome to make it four wins in a row on all surfaces over his biggest rival.

Nadal opens up against veteran American Robbie Ginepri, while Djokovic faces Portuguese Joao Sousa. Djokovic’s path then quickly gets tricky. Quarterfinalist from Rome Jeremy Chardy is a possible second round opponent, before talented Croatian Marin Cilic awaits in the third round. Last year’s French Open semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could then be next up, before he is seeded to meet fast rising Canadian, Milos Raonic, who pushed Djokovic to three sets in Rome, in the quarterfinals. Roger Federer is his seeded semifinal opponent, if the Swiss can get through a section that includes Tomas Berdych and American John Isner.

Like the men’s, the women’s draw has thrown up the possibility of a rematch of last year’s final in the quarterfinals. Top seed Serena Williams is seeded to face last year’s runner-up and 2012 champion Maria Sharapova in the last eight. First, though, Williams could have to get past sister Venus in a possible third-round match-up. Former champion and second seed Li Na, has fourth-seeded Romanian Simona Halep as a possible semifinal opponent.