By Simon Cambers
LONDON (Reuters) – Andy Murray will begin the defence of his Wimbledon title against Kazakh lucky loser Alexander Bublik after the draw was made for the third grand slam of the year at the All England Club on Friday.
The Scot, who is bidding to win Wimbledon for a third time, was drawn in the same half as two-time champion Rafael Nadal, with three-times winner Novak Djokovic and seven-times champion Roger Federer placed in the bottom half.
Women’s world number one Angelique Kerber opens up against American qualifier Irina Falconi and is seeded to face Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals. Murray, whose preparations have been hampered by a sore hip, will open the men’s event on Monday against 134th-ranked Bublik who made it into the main draw despite losing in the final round of qualifying.
The world number one could play flamboyant German Dustin Brown in the second round, with Australian Nick Kyrgios a potential fourth-round opponent.
Should the seedings go to plan, the top seed will play Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals before taking on Nadal, the champion in 2008 and 2010.
Federer will begin his quest for a men’s record eighth title with a match against world number 84 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.
The Swiss, who won the warm-up event in Halle, is seeded to face 27th seed Mischa Zverev of Germany in the third round, with Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov (13) likely to be waiting in the last 16.
Milos Raonic, who beat him in the semi-finals last year, is Federer’s scheduled opponent in the quarter-finals, before a likely semi-final against Djokovic. French Open champion Nadal, who has not gone past the fourth round at Wimbledon since 2011, plays Australia’s John Millman in round one and is seeded to face former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round.
Djokovic plays Martin Klizan of Slovakia in his first-round match and could face Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro, the former U.S. Open winner and 29th seed, in the third round. With title holder Serena Williams taking time out to give birth to her first child, the only former women’s champions in the draw are her elder sister Venus and Petra Kvitova.
While last year’s runner-up Kerber is slated to face big-serving Czech Pliskova in the last four, the other semi-final could be a repeat of the French Open final between surprise winner Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Romania’s Simona Halep. Two-time champion Kvitova, who won the warm-up event in Birmingham just six months after being attacked by a knife-wielding intruder in her home, is also in the bottom half and plays Johanna Larsson of Sweden in the first round.
(For a graphic on ‘Performance of the “Big Four” in Grand Slams’ click http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/TENNIS-WIMBLEDON/010041VE413/TENNIS-WIMBLEDON.jpg)
(Editing by John O’Brien and Pritha Sarkar)