Rafael Nadal to be Tested Early at Wimbledon

World No.1 Rafael Nadal could be forced to stretch his muscles in the early goings of this year’s Wimbledon championships as he was handed tough opponents during Friday’s draw.

Nadal, the second seed at the tournament set to start on Monday, has a relatively easy first round assignment in 20-year-old Japanese Kei Nishikori. However, trouble could be waiting for the Spanish ace in the second round as he is expected to meet American James Blake, who has just recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him for three months.

Dangerous Latvian Ernests Gulbis is a possible third-round opponent for Nadal, the 2008 champion at the All England Club. Nadal could face Russian Mikhail Youzhny in the fourth round while Sweden’s Robin Soderling could be waiting for the reigning French Open champion in the quarterfinals. Soderling ended Nadal’s winning streak at the French Open in 2009 but the Spaniard avenged his defeat by thrashing the Swede in the final this year.

Meanwhile, World No.2 Roger Federer, bidding to tie Pete Sampras’ record of seven Wimbledon titles, is not expected to be tested until the fourth round, where he will face Feliciano Lopez of Spain. Federer might also face Andy Roddick and former champion Lleyton Hewitt in the later rounds. Hewitt defeated Federer in the final at Halle last week.