Tennis: Easy Wimbledon draw for defending champion Roger Federer, slightly trickier for Rafael Nadal

Roger Federer of Switzerland in action during a training session at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon on June 28, 2018.
Roger Federer of Switzerland in action during a training session at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon on June 28, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (REUTERS) - Defending champion Roger Federer will begin his quest for a record-extending ninth Wimbledon title with a first-round clash against Serbian world No. 57 Dusan Lajovic.

The 36-year-old Swiss, seeded first, appears to have been given a smooth route to the latter rounds, though in-form third seed Marin Cilic, who he beat in last year's final, could be waiting in the semi-final this time.

Seven-time women's champion Serena Williams was handed a comfortable-looking first-round draw after being paired with 107th-ranked Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus.

The 36-year-old American, who has played only a handful of matches this year after giving birth last September, is seeded 25th after being bumped up from her world ranking of 183rd.

It could soon get harder for Williams, though. Ukraine's Elina Svitolina, the fifth seed, lies in wait as a potential third-round opponent.

Defending women's champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain will play Briton Naomi Broady in the first round while Venus Williams, runner-up last year, takes on Swede Johanna Larsson.

Men's second seed Rafael Nadal, champion in 2008 and 2010, starts against Israeli Dudi Sela while three-time champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia faces American Tennys Sandgren.

British favourite Andy Murray, still a doubt for the tournament as he makes a comeback from nearly a year out with a hip injury, is unseeded and was drawn to play Benoit Paire.

Two-time champion Murray, whose last Grand Slam match win came against Paire in the fourth round of last year's Wimbledon, could face Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov in round two and Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro in round three.

The biggest match of the men's first round will be sixth seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov's tussle with three-time Grand Slam champion Swiss Stan Wawrinka, who is unseeded after an injury break.

Women's top seed and world No. 1 Simona Halep will play Japan's Kurumi Nara in the first round. The Romanian, who claimed her first Grand Slam title at the French Open earlier this month, could face a rematch with Britain's Johanna Konta in the fourth round, having lost an epic quarter-final last year.

Halep's potential quarter-final opponent could be two-time champion Czech Petra Kvitova, with third seed Muguruza seeded to play against her in the semis.

Women's second seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark starts against American Varvara Lepchenko.

Both Federer and Nadal, who contested a memorable final 10 years ago and are again dominating men's tennis, can have few complaints about their draws.

Federer could face 94th-ranked Lukas Lacko or 285th-ranked Benjamin Bonzi in round two and his first seeded opponent would be No. 32 Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in round three.

Nadal, who has been vulnerable on the Wimbledon grass-court lawns in recent years, will be a little more wary.

Surprise French Open semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato, seeded 29th, or German serve-and-volleyer Mischa Zverev could await in the third round.

Should he reach the quarter-final, Nadal could face Del Potro or even Murray.

Federer will open Centre Court action on Monday (July 2)while Serena Williams also starts on Monday. Murray will have a Tuesday start against Paire, giving him an extra day to assess his fitness.