By HOWARD FENDRICH
The Associated Press
WIMBLEDON, England — Within the first minute of the Wimbledon draw ceremony Friday there arrived a bit of information many were wondering about: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were indeed set up for a potential semifinal meeting, with Novak Djokovic possibly awaiting that showdown’s winner in the final.
Toward the end of the proceedings came the most fascinating first-round matchup of all: 39-year-old Venus Williams, a five-time champion at the All England Club, against 15-year-old American Coco Gauff, the youngest player to qualify at the All England Club in the half-century Open era.
In between, there were plenty of other things to keep an eye out for once the grass-court Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, including the placement of Venus’ younger sister, Serena, in what shapes up as by far the toughest quarter of the women’s field. She might need to beat defending champion Angelique Kerber in the fourth round, then No. 1 Ash Barty in the quarterfinals.
Gauff grew up idolizing the Williams sisters, who have both been ranked No. 1 and own a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles.
“They’re the reason why I wanted to pick up a tennis racket,” Gauff, who is ranked 301st this week, said in an interview posted on Wimbledon’s Twitter feed. “And I met them both, and they’re both super-kind people, and I’m just super-happy and thankful that they chose to play tennis.”
With defending champion Djokovic in the top half of the men’s bracket, he’ll now only need to beat at most one of the No. 2-seeded Federer or No. 3-seeded Nadal, because they were drawn together in the bottom half.
Nadal is ranked No. 2, and Federer No. 3, but that was reversed by Wimbledon’s seeding system, which takes into account grass-court results over the past two years.
The possible men’s quarterfinals are No. 1 Djokovic against No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas, and No. 4 Kevin Anderson, last year’s runner-up, against No. 6 Alexander Zverev on one side of the field, and Federer vs. No. 8 Kei Nishikori, and Nadal vs. No. 5 Dominic Thiem on the other. Nadal-Thiem would be a rematch of the 2018 and 2019 French Open finals, both won by Nadal.
The women’s quarterfinals could include Barty against No. 11 seed Serena Williams or No. 5 Kerber; No. 3 Karolina Pliskova against No. 8 Elena Svitolina; No. 2 Naomi Osaka against No. 7 Simona Halep; No. 4 Kiki Bertens against No. 6 Petra Kvitova, the two-time champion who must decide whether to play after being sidelined with an injured left forearm.
The quarter with Serena Williams, Barty and Kerber also includes past Wimbledon champions GarbiÒe Muguruza and Maria Sharapova, and strong grass-court players Julia Goerges, Belinda Bencic, Donna Vekic, Kaia Kanepi and Alison Riske. Kerber could meet Sharapova in the third round.
At least the younger Williams, who as usual skipped the grass-court tuneup events, gets a chance to work herself into form. She opens against a qualifier, 162nd-ranked Giulia Gatto-Monticone of Italy, then could face another qualifier in the second round.
Nadal starts off against qualifier Yuichi Sugita of Japan, and Federer’s first opponent is Lloyd Harris, a 22-year-old South African making his Wimbledon debut.
Djokovic will get things going at Centre Court on Monday against Philipp Kohlschreiber, a former top-20 player who was a 2012 quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and beat Djokovic on a hard court at Indian Wells, California, this year.
Intriguing first-round pairings men’s include: Thiem against 2017 semifinalist Sam Querrey; 12th-seeded Fabio Fognini against 21-year-old American Frances Tiafoe; No. 19 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime against Vasek Pospisil in an all-Canadian matchup; and Nick Kyrgios against Jordan Thompson in an all-Australian matchup, with the winner likely facing Nadal, who was upset by Kyrgios in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2014.