Nadal begins French Open defence against Dolgopolov

Rafael Nadal is in the opposite side of the draw to the likes of Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev at the French Open.

Rafael Nadal celebrates in Paris   -  Getty Images

Defending champion Rafael Nadal will begin his bid for an 11th French Open title against Alexandr Dolgopolov, with Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka in a stacked bottom half of the draw.

Nadal also avoided Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori in his section, boosting his hopes of another deep run at Roland Garros.

The biggest potential challenges for the clay-court master could be a quarter-final against sixth seed Kevin Anderson and a last-four clash with either Marin Cilic or Juan Martin del Potro.

Nadal has been in typically dominant form on his favoured surface this season, winning his 11th titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona amid a surface-specific record of 50 successive sets won, as well as claiming glory at the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome.

"I feel great. Always it's very special, being back to this place. Every time I have the chance to be at this place, it's a very special feeling," Nadal said at the draw ceremony.

"There's no doubt that this is the most important place in my career and every time I have the chance to be here I enjoy

"Of course, having the success that I had the last couple of weeks helps to give me more confidence.

"At the same time, the motivation here is always as high as possible. I am excited to be back here."

Djokovic starts against a qualifier and could face Dimitrov in the last 16, with David Goffin the second-highest seed in the 2016 champion's quarter of the draw.

Wawrinka lost last year’s final in straight sets to Nadal but has been bothered by a knee injury in 2018. He will begin his campaign against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and will likely have to overcome Zverev and Thiem if he is to reach the last four.