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By Kylie MacLellan
LONDON, July 26 (Reuters) - Top seed Roger Federer could meet Britain’s Andy Murray in the Olympic tennis final in a repeat of their Wimbledon showdown earlier this month, after the pair were drawn on opposite sides of the competition on Thursday.
World number one and 17-times grand slam champion Federer, seeking his first Olympic singles medal, will play Colombia’s Alejandro Falla in the opening round.
Federer, who beat Murray to a secure a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon title, battled back from two sets down to beat Falla in the Wimbledon first round in 2010.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, seeded two, will take on Italy’s Fabio Fognini, referee Stefan Fransson said, unveiling the draw in a lounge at Wimbledon’s centre court adorned with large photos of London landmarks including Buckingham Palace and the London Eye.
Djokovic, who won bronze in Beijing, is in the same half of the draw as British number one Murray, who he would meet in the semi-finals.
Before that third seed Murray will have to beat Federer’s fellow-Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in his opening match, an announcement which drew a noisy response from a room packed with team leaders, officials and media.
Murray has won six of the ten times the pair have met previously.
“It is a tough draw for both guys,” Federer told reporters.
“They are good friends and I think they even practised twice together in the last three days so they are well prepared for each other ... but obviously Murray goes in to that match as a favourite, he goes into the tournament as one of the favourites.”
Wawrinka, who was out practising on a sun-drenched court three on Thursday morning, is carrying the Swiss flag in Friday evening’s opening ceremony and will have to wait until the schedule of play is released that day to find out if he will have to play on the first day of the competition on Saturday.
Women’s top seed Belarusian Victoria Azarenka will play Romanian world number 79 Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round, while America’s Serena Williams, fresh from her fifth Wimbledon title, takes on former world number one Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.
Neither of Beijing’s singles gold medallists will be returning to defend their titles, after Spain’s Rafa Nadal was forced to pull out through injury and Russia’s Elena Dementieva retired. But the draw is the strongest ever, with 18 of the world’s top 20 men and 19 of the top 20 women taking part.
“It is a very important event. The field is packed with top players and everyone is taking it seriously,” said eighth seed Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, who faces Britain’s Anne Keothavong in the first round. “She has home advantage.”
Top seeded men’s duo Mike and Bob Bryan, who won bronze in Beijing, will begin their medal campaign by playing Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci and Andre Sa, and could face defending doubles gold medallists Federer and Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.
In the women’s doubles, top seeded American’s Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond get a pass to the second round after the withdrawal of Ukraine’s Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko due to injury.
Unseeded defending gold medallists Venus and Serena Williams will take on Romania’s Sorana Cirstea and Simona Halep. (Additional reporting by Mark Meadows, editing by Ossian Shine)