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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer in same half of French Open field

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Federer accidentally nails Monfils with a tennis ball (0:26)

Roger Federer and Elina Svitolina have a good laugh after Federer accidentally hit Gael Monfils in the leg. (0:26)

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all ended up in the same half of the French Open men's field in the draw Thursday, meaning no more than one of them can reach the final.

The Big Three top the leaderboard for Grand Slam men's singles titles. Federer and Nadal head to Roland Garros, where play begins Sunday, tied with 20, while Djokovic has 18. No one else has more than 14.

Nadal beat Djokovic in straight sets in the 2020 final for his record-extending 13th championship on the red clay of Paris, but if they meet again this time, it would be in the semifinals. Nadal is ranked and seeded No. 3 -- the seedings adhere strictly to the ATP rankings, so the Spaniard's unprecedented success in Paris is irrelevant -- so he could have wound up on either side of the bracket but was placed in No. 1 Djokovic's half.

So was Federer, whose record for most weeks atop the ATP rankings recently was broken by Djokovic. Federer is seeded eighth after playing only three matches over the past 15 months because of two operations on his right knee and could meet Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

The other possible men's quarterfinal on their side is Nadal vs. No. 7 Andrey Rublev.

On the other side of the draw, the potential quarterfinals are No. 2 Daniil Medvedev vs. No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 4 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 6 Alexander Zverev.

Medvedev is a two-time Grand Slam finalist but is 0-4 for his French Open career. Thiem won last year's US Open and twice has been the runner-up in Paris.

This is the first time that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have been in the same half of a Grand Slam main draw, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Serena Williams, who has won three of her Open era record 23 Grand Slam titles in Paris, is in a quarter of the women's draw filled with familiar faces.

That includes potential matchups with three-time major champion Angelique Kerber in the third round, two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova in the fourth and either two-time Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka or No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinals.

The other potential women's quarterfinals are No. 1 Ash Barty vs. No. 5 Elina Svitolina, No. 4 Sofia Kenin vs. No. 8 Iga Swiatek in what would be a rematch of the 2020 final won by Swiatek, and No. 2 Naomi Osaka vs. No. 6 Bianca Andreescu.

Four-time major champion Osaka tweeted Wednesday that she would not be doing news conferences during the French Open.

A year after withdrawing from Roland Garros before the second round because of an injured left Achilles, Williams will face 74th-ranked Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania to begin things. They met once before -- on red clay in Rome in 2016, the year Begu reached the fourth round in Paris for the deepest French Open run of her career.

Other first-round matches of interest include Swiatek against Kaja Juvan, a 20-year-old from Slovenia who beat Kerber in the first round in Paris last year; Azarenka against another owner of two major trophies, Svetlana Kuznetsova; and Kenin, last year's Australian Open champion, against 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.