Ser­ena gets smooth draw

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON » Ser­ena Wil­liams avoided any early matchups against op­po­nents with suc­cess to speak of at Wim­ble­don in a draw on Fri­day that could put her against No. 5 seed Elina Svi­tolina in the third round.

Wil­liams is re­turn­ing to the grass­court tour­na­ment for the first time since 2016 after miss­ing it last year while preg­nant. She gave birth to a daugh­ter in Septem­ber.

She is ranked out­side the top 150, but the All Eng­land Club de­cided to seed her 25th based on past suc­cess, which in­cludes col­lect­ing seven of her 23 Grand Slam sin­gles tro­phies at Wim­ble­don. Wil­liams’ first-round op­po­nent when play be­gins on Mon­day will be 107th-ranked Aran­txa Rus of the Nether­lands, who has one ca­reer tour ti­tle.

Wil­liams is com­pet­ing for the first time since she pulled out of the French Open ahead of a fourth-round show­down against five-time ma­jor cham­pion Maria Shara­pova in early June, cit­ing an in­jured chest mus­cle. That was Wil­liams’ re­turn to Grand Slam ac­tion after a 16-month ab­sence.

Rus has only once been as far as Wim­ble­don’s third round, back in 2012. That was the last time she won a match at the All Eng­land Club. She was beaten in the first round of qual­i­fy­ing a year ago, as were both of the women Wil­liams could meet in the sec­ond round, 136th-ranked qual­i­fier Vik­toriya To­mova of Bul­garia and 167thranked wild-card re­cip­i­ent Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Repub­lic.

Svi­tolina has only once been as far as the fourth round.

Wil­liams’ pos­si­ble fourth-round op­po­nent, 2017 U.S. Open run­ner-up Madi­son Keys, made one quar­ter­fi­nal ap­pear­ance, while the 36-year-old Amer­i­can’s po­ten­tial quar­ter­fi­nal foe, reign­ing Aus­tralian Open cham­pion Caro­line Woz­ni­acki, has never been be­yond the fourth round.

Wil­liams could face her older sis­ter, five-time cham­pion and 2017 run­nerup Venus, in the semi­fi­nals. The ninth­seeded Venus Wil­liams opens against 62nd-ranked Jo­hanna Lars­son of Swe­den, who is 0-7 at Wim­ble­don.

The Wil­liams sis­ters are not in the dou­bles draw. They have won 14 Grand Slam ti­tles as a pair, in­clud­ing six at Wim­ble­don.

In the top half of the women’s sin­gles bracket, the quar­ter­fi­nals could be French Open cham­pion Si­mona Halep vs. two-time Wim­ble­don win­ner Pe­tra Kvi­tova, and de­fend­ing champ Gar­bine Mugu­ruza vs. No. 6 Caro­line Gar­cia. In the bot­tom half, No. 2 Woz­ni­acki was drawn to face Svi­tolina, while 2017 U.S. Open cham­pion Sloane Stephens could play No. 7 Karolina Pliskova.

The po­ten­tial men’s quar­ter­fi­nals in the top half are eight-time cham­pion Roger Fed­erer vs. 2017 U.S. Open run­ner-up Kevin An­der­son, and 2014 U.S. Open cham­pion Marin Cilic vs. No. 6 seed Grigor Dim­itrov. In the bot­tom half of the bracket, it could be twotime Wim­ble­don win­ner Rafael Nadal vs. 2009 U.S. Open cham­pion Juan Martin del Potro, and No. 4 Alexan­der Zverev vs. No. 7 Do­minic Thiem.

Two-time cham­pion Andy Mur­ray will face 48th-ranked Benoit Paire in the first round. It’s a re­match of Mur­ray’s fourth-round vic­tory over the French­man at the All Eng­land Club in 2017.

That was Mur­ray’s last win be­fore he sat out nearly a year be­cause of an in­jured hip that was sur­gi­cally re­paired in Jan­uary.

He re­turned to ac­tion last week and so is ranked only 156th and un­seeded at Wim­ble­don, which he won in 2013 and 2016.

Mur­ray could face 26th-seeded De­nis Shapo­valov of Canada in the sec­ond round.

The top-seeded Fed­erer’s open­ing op­po­nent on Mon­day will be 57thranked Du­san La­jovic of Ser­bia. Their only pre­vi­ous meet­ing any­where came in Wim­ble­don’s sec­ond round last year, when Fed­erer won in straight sets en route to the ti­tle.

No. 2 seed Nadal, whose 17 Grand Slam ti­tles trail only Fed­erer’s 20 among men, faces 129th-ranked Dudi Sela of Is­rael on Tues­day. Nadal has won both of their pre­vi­ous matchups.

Men’s first-rounders to keep an eye on in­clude Dim­itrov against three­time ma­jor cham­pion Stan Wawrinka, who is still work­ing his way back into form after knee surgery; 12-time ma­jor champ No­vak Djokovic against Aus­tralian Open quar­ter­fi­nal­ist Ten­nys Sand­gren of the U.S.; and No. 23 Richard Gas­quet against Gael Mon­fils in a matchup of French­men.

Two women who lost a Wim­ble­don fi­nal against Ser­ena Wil­liams will meet in the first round when for­mer No. 1 and two-time ma­jor cham­pion An­gelique Ker­ber plays qual­i­fier Vera Zvonareva. Ker­ber was the run­ner-up in 2016, Zvonereva in 2010.

Shara­pova, the 2004 Wim­ble­don cham­pion who is seeded 24th, could face 2017 French Open cham­pion and 12th-seeded Je­lena Ostapenko in the third round, and Kvi­tova in the fourth.

STEVEN PASTON — PA VIA AP

Caro­line Woz­ni­acki cel­e­brates de­feat­ing An­gelique Ker­ber in their semi­fi­nal at East­bourne on Fri­day.

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