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Nadal's Wimbledon boost

Rafael Nadal's chances at the Wimbledon title got a boost on Friday.

Rafael Nadal celebrates after beating Roger Federer in the Semi-Final of the Australian Open in Melbourne on 26 January 2012. Picture: AFP
tennis,Novak Djokovic,Roger Federer,Andy Murray,Rafael Nadal,Wimbledon,Jo Wilfried Tsonga
Sport

LONDON - Rafa Nadal's hopes of winning a third Wimbledon title were given a boost when he avoided a possible semi-final clash with rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The Spanish second seed, who will begin his campaign against Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci, was handed a relatively easy path to the final when he was placed in the opposite side of the draw to defending champion Djokovic and six-times winner Federer.

The Serbian world number one and top seed will play Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero, who topped the rankings in 2003, in his opening clash while third seed Federer faces another Spaniard Albert Ramos.

Britain's Andy Murray, who would face Nadal in the semi-final should he get that far, faces Russia's former world number three Nikolay Davydenko.

Nadal has beaten Murray in the last two Wimbledon semi-finals.

In the women's competition, top seed and world number one Maria Sharapova was placed in a different half of the draw to reigning champion Petra Kvitova, four-times winner Serena Williams and world number two Victoria Azarenka.

Sharapova, who became only the 10th woman to complete the career grand slam at Roland Garros earlier this month, faces Australia's Anastasia Rodionova in the opening round.

Williams will play Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, Kvitova takes on Akgul Amanmuradova from Uzbekistan and Azarenka plays the United States' Irina Falconi.

All the top seeds avoided an early encounter with Venus Williams who is ranked 55 in the world and was lurking in the draw with the potential on grass to derail their hopes.

Argentina's David Nalbandian, who was defaulted in the Queen's final on Sunday for kicking an advertising hoarding into a line judge, starts his Wimbledon campaign against Serbian world number eight Janko Tipsarevic.

While in another eye-catching tie, 2002 winner Lleyton Hewitt, a wildcard this year, plays France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who reached the semi-finals in 2011.

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