Tough for Hewitt, easy for Agassi


PARIS: World number one Lleyton Hewitt faces a tough challenge at the French Open where some of the world’s leading clay-court players are lurking on his route to the semi-finals. 

Friday’s draw placed women’s top seed Serena Williams and elder sister Venus in different halves, leaving the door open for yet another final between the Americans. The sisters have featured in the last four Grand Slam finals. 

Australia’s Hewitt has never made it past the quarter-finals in Paris, and he will limber up in this year’s first round against American Brian Vahaly before embarking on what looks almost like a mission impossible. 

In the second round, he could meet either Russian Nikolay Davydenko, winner in Estoril this season, or unpredictable Briton Greg Rusedski who is on the comeback trail. 

The Wimbledon champion could then clash with three-time winner Gustavo Kuerten as early as the fourth round and face defending champion Albert Costa of Spain in the last eight. 

In-form Argentines Gaston Gaudio and David Nalbandian are also in Hewitt’s quarter of the men’s draw. 

The clash between Brazil’s “Guga” Kuerten and veteran Swiss Marc Rosset will be one of the highlights of the first round. 

Second seed Andre Agassi has an easier first week ahead of him even if his quarter of the draw looks a little like a senior tour billing. 

 

It contains 1996 winner Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, former world number one Marcelo Rios of Chile and veteran Spaniard Alex Corretja. 

Agassi, who won the tournament in 2000, meets Slovak Karel Beck in the first round. 

 

In-form Swiss Roger Federer has been favoured by the draw, most of the seeds on his menu being hardcourt specialists. He could meet fourth seed and 1998 champion Carlos Moya of Spain in the last eight. 

In the women’s draw, the big question mark was whether Serena and big sister Venus would be placed in the same half. 

 

But third seed Venus was drawn in the same sector as second seed Kim Clijsters of Belgium. Serena’s theoretical semi-final opponent will be Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne. 

The defending champion’s task will not be easy since she could meet France's Amelie Mauresmo in the quarter-finals. Mauresmo beat Serena last week in the semi-finals in Rome. 

Serena, who starts her title defence against Austria’s Barbara Rittner, could also meet former champion Mary Pierce in an intriguing third round match. 

Venus will meet a qualifier in the first round. – Reuters 

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