Rafael Nadal takes a break during a training session at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London this week. Photo: EPA/Peter Klaunzer

LONDON – Rafael Nadal breathed a sigh of relief Friday after he was slated to meet eight-time champion Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

Nadal's fears that he would be drawn in top-seeded favourite and defending champion Novak Djokovic's half of the draw - and face him in the semis - proved unfounded despite Wimbledon promoting Federer above him in the seedings.

The Spaniard, seeded third behind Federer, had complained earlier this week that Wimbledon's unique formula for seeding that combines ranking points with form in grass-court competitions was disrespectful.

World number one Djokovic will in theory face South African fourth seed and last year's beaten finalist Kevin Anderson - who was promoted from eighth in the world - in the last four.

Nadal, who comes in on the back of his 18th Grand Slam singles title after winning his 12th French Open which included beating Federer in the semi-finals, will do well to reach the last four as he has a tough looking draw.

He should have little trouble with his first round opponent, Yuichi Sugita of Japan, but after that things become more perilous.

Moody but talented Australian Nick Kyrgios - who beat Nadal in the last 16 at Wimbledon in 2014 - is a potential second round opponent and highly-rated Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov could await in the third round.

If he emerges from those tussles he could face Croatia's 2017 Wimbledon singles finalist Marin Cilic in the last 16.

His great rivals Djokovic and Federer begin their campaigns against 35-year-old German Philipp Kohlschreiber and Lloyd Harris of South Africa respectively. 

Kohlschreiber beat Djokovic earlier this year in the third round at Indian Wells. 

The women's draw sees Australia's new world number one and French Open champion Ashleigh Barty open against China's Zheng Saisai with a potentially tricky date with Spain's 2017 champion Garbine Muguruza in the third round.

The most intriguing match-up could come in the fourth round with a rematch of last year's final between defending champion Angelique Kerber of Germany and American legend Serena Williams.

There is a first round match of the old and the very new as Williams's 39-year-old sister Venus will play compatriot Cori Gauff, who on Thursday at 15years of age became the youngest woman to qualify for the tournament in the Open era.

Adding extra spice to the encounter is that the Williams sisters are the reason Gauff took up tennis.

“Serena Williams has always been an idol and Venus,” she said. “I mean they're the reason why I wanted to pick up a tennis racket.

“I've met them both and they are super kind people I'm just thankful they took up tennis because I am sure they would dominate any sport.”

Japan's Naomi Osaka - whom Barty replaced as world number one when she won the Birmingham tournament last Sunday - begins her bid to add Wimbledon to her US and Australian Open titles against Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.

Agence France-Presse (AFP)