Sunday 18 March 2018 / 01:35 AM

Wimbledon draw: Djokovic avoids big guns

The Wimbledon draw was kinder to some than others, with Novak Djokovic’s path to the final free of his biggest rivals, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who are all in the other half. The World No.1’s biggest hurdle to the final potentially awaits in the late-blooming Stanislas Wawrinka, who he could meet in the last four. Wawrinka won the recently-concluded French Open, beating the Serb in a thrilling four-set final.

Nadal’s seeding of 10th, his lowest in over a decade, was always likely to mean he was a dangerous floater in the draw who could meet a top-4 seed as early as the quarter-finals. That fate has befallen British hope Andy Murray, who faces the 14-time Slam-winning Spaniard if both of them win their first four matches at the tournament. The winner of that contest likely faces a blockbuster clash with seven-time Wimbledon winner Roger Federer in the semi-finals, if the Swiss can overcome the dangerous 6th seed Tomas Berdych in the quarters.

Djokovic opens his title defence with the first match on Centre Court against Philipp Kohlschreiber. The German can consider himself unlucky to be handed the ominous task. He was the highest-ranked player not seeded, and the reason he dropped out of the seedings was a first-round meeting in Halle against Roger Federer, where he was two points from victory before Federer prevailed in a third-set tiebreak. Djokovic would probably have preferred an easier assignment to begin with, too, than the man who ousted him from the French Open in 2009 in the third round. It should be a fascinating way to kick off The Championships.

The one to watch for the nostalgically-minded is a rather unfortunate first-0round match-up between two players who will be playing at Wimbledon for the last time. Finland’s Jarrko Niemenen, who hangs up his racket in October, and Lleyton Hewitt, who will play until the Australian Open next year, will do battle to end each other’s Wimbledon careers for the right to play (most likely) Novak Djokovic in the second round. It would be tempting and romantic to look beyond that for long-time Aussie favourite Hewitt, but it is probably not practical. Expect, in any case, the Australian fans to be in full voice for their favourite, veteran son.

Australian youngster Nick Kyrgios, tipped by John McEnroe to be the most likely candidate outside the big names to go deep at the tournament, starts off against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman. A chance to avenge his quarter-final defeat last year at the hands of Milos Raonic awaits in a potentially engrossing fourth-round clash.

Rafael Nadal, two-time champion and five-time finalist at the tournament, has not progressed beyond the fourth round in four years. Barring a huge upset (which did admittedly account for him in 2012 and 2013), his biggest hurdle to break that hoodoo lies in the fourth round against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, who is ranked higher than his more prolific countryman. Ferrer, however, has only beaten Nadal six times in 29 meetings and never on grass, so a thrilling quarter-final between Murray and Nadal does loom large.

Federer has been handed a rather tough draw en route to his attempt to become the first player ever to win eight titles at SW19, with arguably no easy matches except his first-round encounter, where he faces Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Damir Dzhumer for the second successive Slam. His route to the final could well include Sam Querrey, followed by one of emerging talent Jack Sock or big-serving Sam Groth in the third round. Left-handed Spaniard Feliciano Lopez possibly awaits him in the last 16, before a likely scintillating clash with Berdych in the quarters, the same stage where five years ago, the Czech sent tremors around the tennis world by sending Federer packing before the final for the first time in eight years. The semi-final could see him play local hope Andy Murray or old foe Rafael Nadal, with the crowded bottom half promising to provide some tantalising matches by the close of the second week.

Main draw play begins on Monday, with the tournament likely to provide some thrilling wins, heart-breaking losses and fantastic finishes as the players vie to win what is surely one of the most prestigious and historic events in all sport.

View the full draw here.

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Danyal Rasool

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