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French Open preview: World number ones Djokovic and Williams eager for victory

The French Open is set to start on Sunday, with world number ones Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams both having a point to prove.

For the Serbian, the Paris-based tournament remains the only Grand Slam that he is yet to win in a glittering career, while American Williams has not been at her best in 2016.

In the men’s tournament, Stan Wawrinka shocked Djokovic in last year’s final and will take on Lukas Rosol in the first round of his title defence.

Djokovic has been the dominant force in tennis over the last two years, with defeat in the French Open final the only blemish in his copybook in 2015.

Having won the other three major competitions, the Serb started 2016 in fine fashion by claiming the Australian Open.

Elsewhere, Roger Federer has withdrawn from the tournament after suffering from a back injury, while Rafael Nadal will fancy his chances of winning a competition he has claimed a staggering nine times previously.

The Spaniard has proven that he can be devastating on a clay surface and will hope to claim his first Grand Slam since winning in 2014 at Roland Garros.

World number two Andy Murray has been paired with Czech veteran Radek Stepanek in the first round and will fancy his chances given that he is the in opposite side of the draw to both Djokovic and Nadal.

The Scot also defeated Djokovic on clay earlier this month in the final of the Italian Open.

Russia’s only competitor in the men’s tournament is Evgeny Donskoy, who faces 11th seed David Ferrer.

In the women’s tournament, Williams remains the world’s number one and the player to beat.

The 34-year-old American has won the French Open on three previous occasions but the competition in Paris is her least successful major tournament as she has won the other three six times apiece.

Williams was stunned in the semi-finals of the US Open last year by Italian Roberta Vinci, which robbed her of winning all four major tournaments.

She also started this year with an upset defeat at the hands of Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open, but did win the Italian Open on clay earlier this month. Williams starts against Magdalena Rybarikova.

World number five Victoria Azarenka is a dark horse after returning to full fitness and beating winning the Miami Open earlier this year.

Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, who lost to Azarenka in the final in Miami after defeating Williams, will start her campaign against Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova and hope to make the latter stages of the tournament in France.

Other Russians to compete in the women’s tournament include Margarita Gasparyan and Vitalia Diatchenko, who face Sloane Stephens and Lucie Safaova respectively, while Maria Sharapova remains banned.

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