2017-06-30 10:19:02
Wimbledon Draw Reveals a Tough Path for Andy Murray

10:19, June 30 266 0

WIMBLEDON, England — After a disquieting lead-up to his country’s biggest tournament, the top seed and defending champion Andy Murray was dealt a tricky path by the Wimbledon draw Friday morning.

Murray opens against the lucky loser Alexander Bublik, a flashy Kazakh who pulled off an upset against Lucas Pouille in the first round of the Australian Open this year. Murray then faces a stiff second-round test against either Joao Sousa or Dustin Brown. Though ranked only 94th, the net-rushing Brown has established himself as one of the tour’s most dangerous players on grass. He has twice beaten Rafael Nadal on the surface, including in the second round of Wimbledon two years ago.

Should Murray survive that, he could face a tricky third round against Fabio Fognini, seeded 28th, who routed him in Rome in May, or perhaps the 46th-ranked Jiri Vesely, a towering Czech who upset Dominic Thiem in the second round here last year.

Murray’s fourth-round opponent could be the 14th-seeded Pouille or the 20th-seeded Nick Kyrgios. Stan Wawrinka, the No. 5 seed, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the No. 12 seed, are possible quarterfinal foes.

The two-time champion Rafael Nadal, seeded fourth, has struggled in early rounds at Wimbledon recently. After opening against the 137th-ranked Australian John Millman, who entered Wimbledon on a protected ranking, Nadal could face Donald Young or the 71st-ranked Denis Istomin, who stunned Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open in January. Should Nadal pass that test, Karen Khachanov, the No. 30 seed and one of the tour’s hardest hitters, looms in the third round.

The third-seeded Roger Federer, who won his eighth title on the grass courts of Halle, Germany, last Sunday, opens in the bottom half of the draw against Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine. He could face the 27th-seeded Mischa Zverev, a serve-and-volleyer, in the third round.

The sixth-seeded Milos Raonic, who beat Federer in last year’s semifinals before losing to Murray in the final, is also in Federer’s quarter of the draw, as are Alexander Zverev, the No. 10 seed, and Grigor Dimitrov, the No. 13 seed.

Players in the top half of the men’s draw, including Murray and Nadal, will play Monday. Men in the bottom half, including Federer and Djokovic, the No. 2 seed, will play Tuesday.

Djokovic, who has defied norms for top men’s players by playing in Eastbourne this week instead of resting before the major, opens against the 44th-ranked Martin Klizan, one of the trickier unseeded players in the men’s draw. He could face the 29th-seeded Juan Martin del Potro in the third round.

The women’s draw will have the inverse schedule, with the bottom half playing Monday and the top half playing Tuesday. Last year’s runner-up, Angelique Kerber, was given the honor of opening Tuesday’s play on Centre Court, which is traditionally reserved for the women’s defending champion. Last year’s winner, Serena Williams, is not defending her title because of her pregnancy.

Though still ranked first, Kerber has posted mediocre results this year, and could be unseated at the top spot by any of four players at Wimbledon: No. 2 Simona Halep, No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, No. 5 Elina Svitolina or No. 6 Caroline Wozniacki.

Kerber needs to reach at least the semifinals to have a chance at retaining her ranking. She opens against a qualifier, then possibly faces the 2013 semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens in the second round. Garbiñe Muguruza, the No. 14 seed and a runner-up at Wimbledon two years ago, could be Kerber’s fourth-round opponent.

The third-seeded Karolina Pliskova, in pole position in the race to the top spot as she has the fewest points to defend from last year, is in the top half of the draw with Kerber. Her draw is comfortable, with a possibly tricky quarterfinal against the fifth-seeded Wozniacki, the 12th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic, or the 24th-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe.

Sloane Stephens, who has not played since last year’s Olympics because of a stress fracture in her foot, returns to competition here, and will face a fellow American, Alison Riske, in the first round, and possibly Mladenovic in the second.

Venus Williams, a five-time champion, is on the bottom half of the draw, and will face the 56th-ranked Elise Mertens of Belgium in the first round. The French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 13th, opens against the 87th-ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Also in that quarter of the draw, Svitolina, seeded fourth, opens against Ashleigh Barty, a runner-up last weekend in Birmingham.

In the bottom quarter of the draw, the two-time champion Petra Kvitova opens against the 52nd-ranked Johanna Larsson, and could face the sixth-seeded Johanna Konta in the fourth round. Konta scored wins over both Ostapenko and Kerber on Thursday in Eastbourne, but then pulled out of Friday’s semifinal against Pliskova, citing a thoracic spine injury she suffered during a hard fall late in her win over Kerber.

Another two-time major winner, Victoria Azarenka, is playing her second tournament back from maternity leave here. She opens against CiCi Bellis, an 18-year-old Californian who reached the semifinals of the grass court event in Majorca last week.

Azarenka is in the bottom eighth of the draw, which is anchored by the second-seeded Simona Halep, who opens against a qualifier.