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Defending champions prepare for title challenges at French Open 2015

The qualifying games have been played, the draw decided and the clay courts of Roland Garros are now ready to receive participants for the 2015 French Open. Current champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova will be defending their titles against top seeded rivals, with the final playing out on the 6th June in front of a sizeable Parisian crowd.

Menís

It is the first time in 10 years that the Menís tournament has been flung wide open, as Rafael Nadal, who has won the competition in 9 out of the last 10 years, has fallen to 6th in the rankings. His track record of 66 wins and 1 loss (To Robin Soderling who won in 2009) is not to be sniffed at, but will be challenged by the rest of the top seeds who may see an opportunity to capitalise on Nadalís recent shortcomings.

Novak Djokovic will be favourite to put a stop to Nadalís reign, since he is in the midst of a 22-game winning streak and has just claimed a major title at the Italian Open. He has been drawn on the same side as Nadal, which means that they could potentially meet as early as the quarter finals.

Andy Murray has made a significant impact on clay this year, winning his first title on the surface in Munich before overcoming Nadal in Madrid to clinch a major title. He is likely to meet Djokovic or Nadal in the semi-finals, but will have to bypass John Isner and David Ferrer on his way. He starts off the campaign playing one of the qualifier spots.

Aljaě Bedene, the new British No. 2, is set to face Austriaís Dominic Thiem in the first round. If the name is unfamiliar to less informed fans, itís because he was only granted British citizenship on 26th March. The only other Brit to qualify is Kyle Edmund, who is yet to discover who his opponent will be in the first round.

Womenís

Maria Sharapova is in great form going into the French Open, defending her title on the back of a 35th career win in Rome. She has been drawn on the same side as her Italian final opponent, Carla Suarez Navarro, who is now seeded 8th. Her match up in the first round will be Kaia Kanepi.

Going into the competition Sharapova is ranked No. 2 behind Serena Williams, who will be the favourite to de-throne the champion.  Williams pulled out of Rome due to elbow injury, but does not think it should affect her serve at Roland Garros. Current Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who is now 4th seed, has been drawn on the same side as Williams, whilst 3rd seed Simona Halep may end up facing Sharapova in the semi-finals.
 
British number 1, 23 year-old Heather Watson, has been drawn against Mathilde Johansson in the first round. A victory at this early stage would see her potentially face Venus Williams in the second round, which would be an interesting challenge for the young star who seems to be improving in every competition. Jo Konta, who is ranked as British number 2, has made it through qualifying and will be assigned an opponent by the end of the day.

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