SPO_220624 SERENA1-1656072746836
Serena Williams, who returned to the court in Eastbourne, will be tacking part in the singles for the first time in over a year in Wimbledon Championships. Image Credit: AP

London: Serena Williams’ eagerly awaited return to Wimbledon will begin in the first round against France’s Harmony Tan as the 23-time Grand Slam champion resumes singles action after a year out next week.

The 40-year-old American, avoided any of the big names in Friday’s draw and will get the chance to ease into the tournament against world No 113 Tan as she targets an unlikely eighth title.

Wildcard Serena, notionally ranked down at 1,204, has not played a singles match since retiring injured and in tears in the first round a year ago against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

SPO_220624 DJOKOVIC-1656072749637
Novak Djokovic, the men's top seed and defending champion, will open his campaign against South Korea's Kwon Soon-woo. Image Credit: AFP

Men’s top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, chasing a 21st Grand Slam title after a troubled year, will open his campaign against South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo.

Second seed Rafa Nadal, who is half way to a calendar year Grand Slam, plays Argentina’s world No 42 Francisco Cerundolo in the first round while compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, the man predicted to one day fill Nadal’s shoes, takes on Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek, who is on a 35-match winning run, opens against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett while second seed Anett Kontaveit takes on American Bernarda Pera.

SPO_220624 NADAL-1656072752089
Rafael Nadal, who has won the Australian and the French Opens, will be eager to extend his winning spree on the grasscourts. Image Credit: AFP

American teenager Coco Gauff, who reached the French Open final and is seeded 11th, plays Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

Tricky opener

Britain’s US Open champion Emma Raducanu, who will hog the spotlight among the home contingent, faces a tricky opener against experienced Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck.

Raducanu, 19, has struggled since her incredible run in New York and has been dealing with an injury in the build-up.

Compatriot Andy Murray, champion in 2013 and 2016 but unseeded now after his battles with hip injuries, is up against Australian James Duckworth.

SPO_220624 Iga Swiatek-1656072744220
Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek, who is on a 35-match winning run, opens against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett. Image Credit: USA Today Sports

Former champion Simona Halep, the 16th seed, will feature in probably the pick of the women’s first-round clashes as she takes on Czech Karolina Muchova.

On the men’s side, standout first-round matches include three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka against rising Italian Jannik Sinner while Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios takes on British hopeful Paul Jubb.

Collision course

Looking further into the draw Djokovic is on course to face fifth seed Alcaraz in the quarter-finals while last year’s runner-up Matteo Berrettini, who opens against Chile’s Cristian Garin, could face Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Nadal’s seeded quarter-final opponent is Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, who he beat on the way to the French Open title.

Swiatek’s projected quarter-final opponent is American Jessica Pegula.

Serena, if she survives her opener against Tan, could face Spanish 32nd seed Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second round with a possible third round against last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova.