ANDY Murray was handed an extremely tough first-round match against Switzerland’s
Stanislas Wawrinka at the Olympic tennis draw at Wimbledon yesterday morning.
With only 16 seeds in a 64-man field instead of the 32 out of 128 who are seeded at the grand slams, there was always the potential for some tasty first-round ties.
And that is certainly the case for third seed Murray, who will meet world No 26 Wawrinka, a man he has lost to four times in ten meetings, including in the third round of the US Open two years ago. The pair also had a very close battle under the roof at Wimbledon in the fourth round in 2009, with Murray eventually winning in five sets.
Wawrinka has struggled to find his best form this season, though, and lost in the first round of Wimbledon last month to Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, while the 27-year-old may also be compromised by his
duties in carrying the Swiss
flag at the opening ceremony
Murray has never won a singles match at the Olympics having lost in the first round to Chinese Taipei’s Lu Yen-hsun in Beijing four years ago but, if he does get past Wawrinka, then he would be a strong favourite to beat either Jarkko Nieminen
of Finland or India’s Somdev Devvarman.
Both men have been recent grand slam opponents for Murray, who beat Devvarman in the first round of the US Open last year and then saw off Nieminen in the second round at the French Open this year despite struggling with a back spasm.
From there, things get much tougher again, with Murray scheduled to meet French 16th seed Richard Gasquet in the third round, sixth seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals and world No 2 Novak Djokovic in the last four. Djokovic will face Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the first round and has French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his quarter, while, in the top half, world
No 1 and Wimbledon champion Roger Federer meets Colombia’s Alejandro Falla.
On paper, it is a comfortable draw, but Federer will be wary of the world No 51, who he nearly lost to in the first round of Wimbledon in 2010. Also in Federer’s half are tenth seed John Isner of the US, eighth-seeded Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro and fourth seed David Ferrer, the leading Spaniard in the absence of the injured Rafael Nadal, the gold medallist in Beijing.
Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka is the top seed in the women’s singles draw and she will face Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu in round one, while second seed and Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland meets big-hitting German Julia Goerges.
Wimbledon champion Serena Williams is seeded fourth and faces former world No 1 Jelena Jankovic from Serbia in a standout first-round clash, with sister Venus taking on ninth seed Sara Errani from Italy.
Both Williams sisters are in Azarenka’s half of the draw, while, in the bottom half, third seed Maria Sharapova faces Israel’s Shahar Peer in round one.
Of the three British representatives, Anne Keothavong has the toughest task after being drawn against eighth seed and former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki.
British No 1 Heather Watson meets Spain’s Silvia Soler Espinosa, while Elena Baltacha takes on Hungary’s Agnes Szavay, who has played only one match in more than a year because of a back injury and does not even have a world ranking.
In the men’s doubles, Andy and Jamie Murray will play Austrian pair Melzer and Alexander Peya, while fellow British duo Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins meet Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau.
Defending champions Wawrinka and Federer take on Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda, while top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan of the US face Thomaz Bellucci and Andre Sa of Brazil.
In the women’s doubles, Watson and Laura Robson were handed a tough draw against fifth seeds Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki of Germany, with Baltacha and Keothavong meeting another German pair, Goerges and Anna-Lena Gronefeld.
Giving his reaction to Murray’s draw, British team leader Paul Hutchins said: “Andy has been practising with Wawrinka all week, so they will certainly know each other well. It’s a tough draw, but Andy will be looking to do very well here.”