LONDON — The Wimbledon draw ceremony took place on Friday morning at the main interview room at the All England Club and it saw defending champion Andy Murray land in the same half as French Open champion Rafael Nadal, with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic sharing the bottom half.
Murray begins his title defence by opening the action on Centre Court on Monday against lucky loser Alexander Bublik, with the bottom half of the draw playing on Tuesday.
Federer is considered by many as the favourite for a record-extending eighth Wimbledon crown but the 35-year-old Swiss, who won a ninth Halle title last week must overcome some difficult opponents this fortnight, the draw revealed.
Here are three things we learned from the men’s draw…
For the fifth time since last August, Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic have been drawn to cross paths early in a tournament. It started at the Rio Olympics last summer, where the Argentine upset Djokovic in the first round, and it’s happened three more times since, in Acapulco (Djokovic won in three), Indian Wells (Djokovic won in three) and Rome (Djokovic won in two).
Add to that the face that Del Potro got Murray in the third round at Roland Garros and Federer in the third round in Miami, it feels the tennis tour’s favourite comeback kid just can’t catch a break.
The former top-five player, now ranked No32, spoke about his draw situation after losing to Murray in Paris earlier this month.
“I’m not having lucky with the draws, but if I want to change that, I need to improve my ranking, is the only solutions to get better draws,” said Del Potro, who is seeded No29 at Wimbledon.
If you think a potential early showdown between Del Potro and Djokovic is cruel, how about the fact that the ‘Tower of Tandil’ faces another fan favourite on the comeback trail, Thanasi Kokkinakis, in the first round.
Yes, tennis is cruel like that sometimes.
The internet has reacted quite dramatically to both Djokovic and Federer’s respective draws. Here’s how the potential paths of the top four seeds compare:
For Federer, opening against a tricky opponent like Dolgopolov is not the best of hands to be dealt but let’s face it, the Ukrainian is now ranked 84 in the world, has won just five matches in total in his last nine Grand Slams, and has never taken a set off of Federer in any of their three previous meetings. He should not be a problem for the Swiss.
Things will get tougher for Federer from the third round onwards though if he does make it there. The seven-time Wimbledon champion might have to navigate past both Zverev brothers as well as former semi-finalist Dimitrov, or last year’s runner-up Milos Raonic. If Federer wants to win a 19th major and an eighth Wimbledon, he’ll have to do it the hard way. The good news is, his brutal Australian Open draw did not stop him from winning the title there, so no matter the path, the Swiss’ chances are always there.
As for Djokovic, an opener against Slovakian lefty Klizan, who has tested many a top player in early rounds at the Slams in the past, is far from the easiest way to start a Slam. A possible meeting with Del Potro in the third round is however worse news for the Argentine than for Djokovic, who has won their last three matches. Lopez just won Queen’s and is always a threat on grass, so that potential fourth round against Djokovic could be a tough obstacle for the Serb.
Murray’s first test could come against the 20th-seeded Kyrgios but the Aussie has never beaten the defending champion and has had fitness issues in the past several weeks.
Meanwhile, Khachanov stands out as the main difficult hurdle for Nadal early on. Nadal has lost in the first or second round in three of his last four appearances at Wimbledon and is appearing here for the first time in two years. His is however a two-time champion and three-time runner-up at the All England Club.
Juan Martin del Potro v Thanasi Kokkinakis, Richard Gasquet v David Ferrer, Marin Cilic v Philipp Kohlschreiber, Mischa Zverev v Bernard Tomic, Andy Murray v Alexander Bublik… these are just some of a slew of mouth-watering first rounds in the men’s draw not to be missed.