WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – To get to the Wimbledon final, Andy Roddick may first have to get past the tallest player on the tour, the local favorite and the game’s newest darling.

Defending champion Roger Federer seems to have an easier path after Thursday’s draw. His toughest projected match could come in the semifinals, with possible opponents being 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt or last year’s semifinalist Mario Ancic.

“I came into Wimbledon last year with a lot of pressure on me, as I was defending my title for the first time, but this year will be a lot easier,” Federer said before the draw. “As soon as I get going I will be tough to beat.”

On the women’s side, Serena Williams could face sister Venus in the fourth round after both were drawn in the bottom half.

Roddick was seeded second by the All England Club, two spots higher than his ranking. He’ll face Jiri Vanek, a Czech ranked 92nd in the world who was beaten in the first round of Wimbledon in 2000 and 01, in his opening match.

Then things get more difficult.

Roddick could face Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the second round. The two met in Sunday’s final of the Queen’s Club tournament, with Roddick beating the 6-foot-10 Karlovic in two tiebreakers.

If he gets past Karlovic, Roddick’s toughest potential opponents to reach the quarterfinals would be Xavier Malisse and Ivan Ljubicic.

In the quarterfinals, Roddick could face four-time semifinalist Tim Henman or Sebastien Grosjean, who was bumped up 17 places from his world ranking to the ninth seed.

Roddick may play Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. Earlier this month, Nadal won the French Open in his first attempt. The two have played twice, with Roddick winning on hardcourt and Nadal on his favored clay.

Other potential semifinal opponents are 2002 finalist David Nalbandian and Thomas Johansson.

If the Williams sisters were to play, the winner could face Belgium’s Justin Henin-Hardenne in the quarterfinals – with defending champion Maria Sharapova potentially waiting in the semifinals.

Top-seeded Lindsay Davenport has an easier time in the top half of the draw, with her toughest projected match not coming until the quarterfinals, when she could face Kim Clijsters. Davenport plays Russia’s Alina Jidkova in her opening match, and could face U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals and third-seeded Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals.

Sharapova opens against Nuria Vives Llagostera of Spain and could then face 15-year-old Sesil Karatancheva, who beat Venus Williams in the third round of the French Open, or talented teenager Tatiana Golovin of France.

Fourth-seeded Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon in 2002 and 03, drew Angela Haynes in the first round, while Venus Williams was paired against a qualifier. Venus won Wimbledon in 2000 and 01 but was seeded only 14th this year.

Serena leads Venus 7-6 in overall meetings, eight of them in finals, including three at Wimbledon. Venus won their last meeting, in the quarterfinals of Nasdaq-100 tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla., on March 29.

Federer will begin his bid for a third consecutive title on Centre Court against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.

Federer has a relatively easy run to the quarterfinals, potentially facing seeded players Nicolas Kiefer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Nikolay Davydenko or grass-court specialist Jonas Bjorkman.

Hewitt plays Christophe Rochus of Belgium in the first round. He could face a tough match against fifth-seeded Marat Safin or Ancic in the quarterfinals.

Mark Philippoussis of Australia, the 2003 runner-up who is a wild card in this tournament, opens against Karol Beck of Slovakia and could face Safin in the second round. Safin plays Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand in the first round.

AP-ES-06-16-05 1834EDT


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