Friday's draw for the clay-court Grand Slam tournament placed Nadal and Djokovic on the same half of the field, while Roger Federer could face David Ferrer in the other semifinal.
Federer, the owner of a record 17 major titles including the 2009 French Open, will face a qualifier in the first round -- and if he wins that, he'll play a qualifier in the second round, too. Djokovic faces a far more intriguing start: The reigning Australian Open champion's first-round opponent is David Goffin, a 22-year-old Belgian who took a set off Federer in the fourth round in Paris last year after making it that far as a lucky loser.
No man has won the title at Roland Garros as many times as Nadal, who broke a tie with six-time champion Bjorn Borg by defeating Djokovic in last year's final and is 52-1 for his French Open career. Nadal also has reached the finals of all eight tournaments he's played in 2013.
But because the Spaniard missed about seven months with a left knee injury, his ranking slipped to No. 4, and the French Open decided not to bump him to a higher seeding.
If the tournament had placed Nadal at No. 2, he and No. 1 Djokovic only could have met in the final; instead, a Nadal-Djokovic rematch for the championship can't happen in 2013.
"I am very happy that I am back and I am healthy to play here another time," said Nadal, who has lost eight of his last 11 matches against Djokovic, including on clay at Monte Carlo last month.
Nadal is seeded No. 3 because second-ranked Andy Murray, the reigning U.S. Open champion, withdrew from the French Open with a back injury.
The possible men's quarterfinals are: Djokovic against No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic, his Davis Cup teammate for Serbia; Nadal against No. 7 Richard Gasquet of France; No. 2 Federer against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France; and No. 4 Ferrer against No. 5 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
Berdych was drawn to face Gael Monfils of France in the first round, drawing groans from some members of the audience.
The last man from France to win the French Open was Yannick Noah in 1983, a 30-year gap mentioned more than once at Friday's ceremony.
Serena Williams wants to end her own, shorter drought in Paris -- her lone French Open title came in 2002 -- and her bid for a second championship will begin against 83rd-ranked Anna Tatishvili in the first round.
A year ago in Paris, Williams lost her opening match to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano, the American's only first-round loss in 50 career Grand Slam tournaments.
Williams is seeded No. 1 this year and is on a 24-match winning streak, the longest of her career.
Tatishvili, from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, is only 2-10 this season. She's also 0-2 at Roland Garros and 6-8 overall at Grand Slam tournaments. Williams, in contrast, has won 15 major titles.
The possible women's quarterfinals are: Williams against No. 8 Angelique Kerber, defending champion Maria Sharapova against No. 7 Petra Kvitova, No. 3 Victoria Azarenka against 2011 champion Li Na, and No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska against 2012 runner-up Sara Errani.
"It's very meaningful to come back as a defending champion. It means you have done something pretty good, and you're coming back into that position and you're trying to defend it," said Sharapova, who completed a career Grand Slam by winning last year's French Open. "I think it's one of the best honors you can have as a tennis player."
One noteworthy first-round matchup is No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, who used to be No. 1, against 35th-ranked Laura Robson, a British teenager who reached the fourth round at last year's U.S. Open.
The French Open begins Sunday.