Monday June 23rd, 2014

LONDON – The Wimbledon draws are out and they’re laced with intrigue. Just like at the French Open, top seed Serena Williams and No. 5 seed Maria Sharapova have been drawn in the same quarter. On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were drawn in one half and Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were drawn in the other.

The top half of the men’s draw and the bottom half of the women’s draw will play on Monday, with Murray opening play on Centre Court. With Marion Bartoli’s retirement, last year’s finalist, Sabine Lisicki, will assume the champion’s spot on Centre Court on Tuesday.

NGUYEN: Can Murray repeat? Can Nadal reach the second week? More Wimbledon questions

With all the names placed, here are the draw winners and losers:

Men’s draw | Women’s draw

Winners

Roger Federer: The seven-time champion is in Rafael Nadal’s half, but the seeds in his quarter shouldn’t trouble him. No. 5 seed Stan Wawrinka hasn’t reached the third round at Wimbledon since 2009 and lost in the first round the last two years. Last year’s surprise semifinalist, Jerzy Janowicz, the No. 15 seed this year, has struggled mightily over the last 12 months, and he hasn’t won three matches in a single tournament this season. John Isner, seeded ninth, has never made it past the second round at Wimbledon, despite his big serve. That said, the biggest stumbling blocks for Federer before the semifinal could come early. He’ll play either Gilles Muller or Julien Benneteau in the second round, and both men could be dangerous here.

Andy Murray: The defending champion, boosted to the No. 3 seed, will open against David Goffin. Murray could face Djokovic in the semifinals — a rematch of last year’s final — and his path to get there isn’t too bad. Among the seeds in his quarter are No. 7 David Ferrer (who has struggled with a stomach virus the last week), Queen’s champion Grigor Dimitrov, Fabio Fognini and Roberto Bautista Agut. A third-round match against Bautista Agut (who has played just five main-draw grass matches in his career) could be tricky given the Spaniard’s strong form this year, while a potential quarterfinal against Dimitrov would be a must-watch.

Li Na: It’s another fairly soft draw for Li, who is still seeking a breakthrough performance at Wimbledon. It’s the only major at which she hasn’t made the semifinals, but she’s advanced to the quarterfinals three times. The top seeds in her half are Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka.

Kvitova, who’s in Li’s quarter, withdrew from Eastbourne this week with a hamstring injury, but expects that a few days off will be sufficient to heal her in time for Wimbledon’s start. Another seed for Li to watch is Caroline Wozniacki, who played well this week in making the Eastbourne semifinals; she could trouble Li in the fourth round, but the Dane hasn’t been to the third round since 2011 and the grass suits Li’s game far better.

Simona Halep: Not unlike the French Open, Halep comes into Wimbledon under a cloud of concern after she withdrew from the Topshelf Open this week with an upper-back injury. Wimbledon presents another great opportunity for Halep to pick up points. She’s never made it past the second round, and she has a good path to the quarterfinals, with Sorana Cirstea, Carla Suarez Navarro and Roberta Vinci as the highest seeds in her section. If she reaches the quarterfinals, she could play No. 11 Ana Ivanovic, who seems to have found her grass legs in winning the Aegon Classic last week.

Victoria Azarenka: Azarenka got better and better in her nearly three-hour match against Camila Giorgi this week in Eastbourne – her first tournament since losing in the first round at Indian Wells in March – and there’s reason to believe that with more matches she could quickly elevate her game at Wimbledon.

Seeded eighth, Azarenka’s draw could have been much worse. She’ll open against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and then face either Johanna Larsson or Bojana Jovanovski. It’s slightly trickier after that, with Garbine Muguruza looming in the third round and Lucie Safarova in the fourth.

NGUYEN: Federer, Ivanovic win Wimbledon tune-up events

Serena Williams was upended in the fourth round of Wimbledon last year by eventual finalist Sabine Lisicki.
Serena Williams was upended in the fourth round of Wimbledon last year by eventual finalist Sabine Lisicki.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Losers

Serena Williams: Serena’s draw is filled with quality opponents. You can look at her difficult path two ways: She’ll lose early, or the quality of her opponents will force Serena to focus immediately and play her best tennis. I tend to favor the latter. She could face Christina McHale in the second round, Alize Cornet in the third round and then either Andrea Petkovic or Eugenie Bouchard in the fourth round. The quarterfinals could be a clash with Maria Sharapova or Angelique Kerber (who is in the Eastbourne final), and then a semifinal against either Halep or Ivanovic. That’s not an easy road to the final, but that might be exactly what Serena needs.

Rafael Nadal: When evaluating Nadal’s draw at Wimbledon, it doesn’t matter which half he’s in or who his projected quarterfinal opponents are. It’s about his first three rounds, when the grass is fresh, slick and quick, and hasn’t been torn up. Nadal, who comes in with a three-match losing streak on grass, will have a tricky start. The No. 2 seed opens against the big-hitting Martin Klizan, who finally regained some form over the clay season to score strong wins over Fabio Fognini in Germany and Kei Nishikori at the French Open. He’s no grass-court beast, but if Klizan finds his range and his serve, he can be formidable. Nadal could then face either Lukas Rosol (again!) or Benoit Paire in the second round, and big-serving Ivo Karlovic in the third round. Not easy.

Maria Sharapova: Once again Sharapova finds herself in Serena’s quarter at a Grand Slam. Much was made of this a month ago at Roland Garros, but that blockbuster quarterfinal never happened (Serena fell early to Muguruza and Sharapova went on to win the whole thing), and afterward, Sharapova gently chided the media for writing her off when the draw came out. Fair enough. Sharapova has failed to make it past the fourth round here in six of her last seven appearances (her lone success was in 2011, when she lost in the final to Petra Kvitova). If Williams goes out during the first week then Sharapova’s draw opens up, though early-round matches with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Kerber won’t be cakewalks for the Russian. But as long as Serena takes care of business, I just don’t see Sharapova getting the better of her on this surface.

Americans: The draw was pretty rough across the board. America’s No. 1 man, John Isner, drew the best hand — he’s in Wawrinka’s section and starts against a British wild card. But it’s a tough start for nearly everyone else, particularly the youngsters. Taylor Townsend will make her Wimbledon main draw debut against No. 31 seed Klara Koukalova. Madison Keys, who on Friday made her first WTA final, in Eastbourne, opens against Monica Puig. Alison Riske, always a quality grass-court player, plays No. 26 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Victoria Duval, who qualified, will meet No. 29 Sorana Cirstea. CoCo Vandeweghe, who will play for the Topshelf Open title on Saturday, will face No. 27 Muguruza in the first round. As for the men, Ryan Harrison opens against Dimitrov, Steve Johnson plays Bautista Agut and Sam Querrey and Bradley Klahn will play each other.

NGUYEN: Murray, Nadal tumble out early in grass-court events

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