Djokovic avoids Nadal but starts with Nishikori in Madrid

Kei Nishikori poses a tough challenge for Novak Djokovic at the Madrid Open, while Rafael Nadal is on the opposite half of the draw.

Kei Nishikori embraces Novak Djokovic   -  Getty Images

Novak Djokovic avoided Rafael Nadal's side of the draw at the Madrid Open but faces a daunting first-round match against Kei Nishikori.

Former world number one Djokovic this week stated he was playing pain free as he attempts to kick-start a flagging season that has been hindered by a persistent elbow problem.

But the 12-time major winner, who reunited with long-time coach Marian Vajda for the clay-court season, will face a tricky task in the form of Nishikori – who was runner-up in the Spanish capital four years ago.

World number one Nadal is in typically stunning form on the dirt, winning titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona last month, but the likes of Dominic Thiem – a losing finalist against the Spaniard 12 months ago – and Juan Martin del Potro pose potentially tricky ties on his side of the draw.