Nadal, Djokovic, Murray in loaded bottom half of Wimbledon draw

The path to a ninth title, however, might not be that easy for Roger Federer, who faces a potential fourth-round match against Borna Coric – the 21-year-old Croatian who stunned the top seed in the Halle final.

Roger Federer and Garbine Muguruza

Roger Federer (L) and Garbine Muguruza are the defending champions in their respective singles category.   -  Getty Images/AFP

The All-England Club has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at world No.1 Rafael Nadal – seeded second – in the bottom half of the men’s singles draw at Wimbledon, but the path to a ninth title might not be that easy for Roger Federer either, who faces a potential fourth-round match against Borna Coric – the 21-year-old Croatian who stunned the top seed in the Halle final just a week before Wimbledon.

The bottom half of the draw also has Novak Djokovic (three Wimbledon titles), Andy Murray (two titles), French Open finalist Dominic Thiem, the mercurial but temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios, Alexander Zverev, David Goffin, Diego Schwartzman (who became the first player to take a set off Nadal at the French Open since 2015), Mischa Zverev (one of the few players with a complete serve-and-volley game today) and Marco Cecchinato, who had a miraculous run to the Roland Garros semis after winning his first Grand Slam match on the red clay of Paris.

Former world No.1 Murray, on his quest to return to the top, has a tricky opening encounter with Frenchman Benoit Paire, who held match points against Federer at Halle before losing a third-set tiebreak 7-9.

Meanwhile, the top half has the big-serving Kevin Anderson, John Isner and Milos Raonic, but none is favoured to reach the latter stages of the tournament. There’s also Stan Wawrinka, who dropped out of the top 250 in the world after losing in the opening round at Roland Garros – he was the finalist last year. But the Swiss No.2 faces world No.6 Grigor Dimitrov in the first round. The Bulgarian, too, has been struggling, saying after a third-round loss at the French Open that he intended to step away from tennis for a while in order to regroup, but he returned at Queen’s Club, London, in the warm-ups for Wimbledon, losing to Djokovic in his second match.

The biggest challenger to Federer’s title in his half, though, has to be Marin Cilic, but the two can only meet in the semifinals. The Croat is in fine form, defeating Djokovic in the Queen’s Club final.

The women’s draw

Potential high-voltage match-ups run aplenty on the women’s side.

First of all, only one of 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, 2011 and 2014 winner Petra Kvitova and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko will be able to make it to the quarterfinals.

Defending champion Garbine Muguruza could face Anett Kontaveit in the third round. The 22-year-old Estonian has jumped up the ranks in the last year and has made the fourth round of both Grand Slams this year, which included an upset win over Ostapenko in the Australian Open third round.

Karolina Pliskova, however, seems to face the toughest ask: potential opponents include Victoria Azarenka – another former world No.1 – in the second round, Mihaela Buzarnescu in the third and Venus Williams in the fourth – if she survives that far.

But the biggest clash in the early rounds of Wimbledon could feature Serena Williams herself. Seeded 25th despite being ranked 183rd in the world – for obvious reasons – the seven-time champion could face Elina Svitolina, the fifth seed and one of the favourites to win this year, as early as the third round.

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