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Federer and Azarenka headline Olympic tennis draws

Serena Williams hits a practice serve ahead before an Olympic backdrop.
by Alexandra Willis
Thursday 26 July 2012

The All England Club continues to be a charmed place for Roger Federer. The seven-time SW19 champion, who returned to the world No.1 ranking after winning his seventh Wimbledon singles title just under three weeks ago, could have to face just one former Wimbledon semi-finalist to reach the gold medal match at the 2012 Olympic tennis. Federer's opening match against Alejandro Falla may bring back memories of his almost-upset at Wimbledon two years ago, but aside from that, and a potential second-round meeting against another Federer nearly-beater, Julien Benneteau, Federer's toughest competition before the semi-finals is likely to come from John Isner or Janko Tipsarevic. 

In the absence of Rafael Nadal, Federer's semi-final opponent is likely to be fourth seed David Ferrer, the Spaniard fresh from his first Wimbledon quarter-final, or, Juan Martin Del Potro, who has never reached that stage. 

The bottom half of the draw could not be more different. Novak Djokovic, the world No.2 and 2008 bronze medallist, starts against Fabio Fognini, but after that things get considerably tougher. The Serb could run into Andy Roddick in the second round, then Marin Cilic, then Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Milos Raonic, before a semi-final against Andy Murray. 

Not that Murray has an easy run to the semis either. The Scot starts against Swiss flag bearer Stanislas Wawrinka, who memorably pushed Murray to five sets under the Centre Court roof at Wimbledon in 2009, before upsetting the British No.1 at the US Open a year later. Also in Murray's part of the draw are Marcos Baghdatis, Richard Gasquet and Tomas Berdych, none of them amateurs on grass by any means. 

In the women's singles, while Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska (pictured above) are seeded at No.1 and No.2 and will play Irina-Camelia Begu and Julia Goerges respectively, the name everyone is scanning for is Serena Williams, the fourth seed, who has landed in Azarenka's half for a first-round meeting with former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic. Serena is joined in the second quarter by Li Na, Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva, while sister Venus, in Azarenka's quarter, takes on Sara Errani. 

In the bottom half, Maria Sharapova, who begins against Shahar Peer, is in line for another meeting with Sabine Lisicki, this time in the third round. For those on Brit-watch, Heather Watson faces Silvia Soler Espinosa in the fourth quarter, Radwanska’s section, Anne Keothavong meets Caroline Wozniacki in the second quarter, and Elena Baltacha has Agnes Szavay in the third quarter, with Ana Ivanovic and Kim Clijsters looming. 

In the men's doubles, defending champions Federer and Wawrinka have a tough ask in the form of top seeds the Bryan brothers in their section, as well as third seeds Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic. In the other half, the second seeds are Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, with Polish duo Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski credible medal threats too. For the two British pairs, things could get tricky. Andy and Jamie Murray kick off against Jurgen Melzer and Alex Peya of Austria, with the Poles potentially next up. Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins open against France’s Benneteau and Gasquet. 

In the women's doubles, top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond have been handed the tournament’s one and only bye following the withdrawal of the Bondarenko sisters, and they’ll be delighted to find themselves on the opposite half of the draw from Wimbledon champions the Williams sisters, who kick off against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea and Simona Halep. If they come through that one, they could have a fan-pleasing second round match against Laura Robson and Heather Watson. But to do so, the Brits will have to beat fifth seeds, Germany’s Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki. Britain’s other duo, Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha, are up in the top half of the draw, kicking off against Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Gronefeld of Germany.

The draw for the fifth and final event, the mixed doubles, will take place on 31 July. Making a return to the Olympics as a medal sport for the first time since Paris 1924, the mixed doubles will have a 16-draw, with four teams seeded. Entry into the mixed doubles will be based on each pair’s combined ranking. Players can use either their singles or doubles ranking to qualify, whichever is highest, and a maximum of two teams per country are permitted. There are 12 Direct Acceptances into the mixed doubles, with the remaining four spots being filled by ITF Places. 

The Olympic tennis at Wimbledon commences on Saturday 28 July. Visit the ITF Olympics site for more of the build-up and the London 2012 site for venue and schedule information.

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