| TOUGH ASK: Lleyton Hewitt couldn’t have envisaged a tougher draw
London: Lleyton Hewitt may have to survive an early barrage of the game’s biggest serves if he’s to retain his Wimbledon title.
The Australian baseliner opens his defence against a qualifier and, barring upsets, would have met former champion Richard Krajicek of The Netherlands.
Serena Williams, the world No. 1 and defending champion, and her sister Venus were kept out of the same half of the women’s draw and could meet in a repeat of last year’s final. World No. 1 Andre Agassi, the second seed, plays British wild card Jamie Delgado and has Russian powerhouse Marat Safin in his quarter.
Tenth-seeded Briton Tim Henman faces Spanish claycourt specialist Alex Corretja in the first round and is in the same quarter as Argentina’s David Nalbandian, last year’s runner-up, and Dutchman Martin Verkerk, beaten finalist at the 2003 French Open.
Roland Garros champion Juan Carlos Ferrero is seeded three and in Henman’s section of the draw.
Hewitt couldn’t have been handed a tougher draw as the Aussie baseliner is likely to run into a succession of big-servers on the London turf.
In the third round he could well meet Taylor Dent — possessor of the world’s second-fastest serve — in the third round.
Fifth-seeded Andy Roddick, the game’s fastest server who shares a 149 miles per hour (239.8 kmph) top speed with Greg Rusedski, was also drawn in Hewitt’s quarter and the two could meet in the last eight.
Agassi’s draw seems tame by comparison. The 1992 Wimbledon champion, winner of eight Grand Slam titles, should have few problems getting past the 456th-ranked Delgado.
Younes El Aynaoui is the first seed he is due to meet in the third round, and the Moroccan, a first-round loser last year, poses little threat on grass.
Former world No. 1 Safin, the 18th seed, or 14th seed Xavier Malisse, a semi-finalist last year, are seeded to meet Agassi in the fourth round. Australia’s Mark Philippoussis is also a dangerous presence in that section of the draw.
Serena Williams faces Jill Craybas in the opening round while second seed Kim Clijsters opens against Rossana Neffa-De Los Rios. French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne opens against Julia Vakulenko, while Venus meets a qualifier.