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2018 Wimbledon men’s, women’s draws

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LONDON (AP) — Serena Williams avoided any early matchups against opponents with success to speak of at Wimbledon in a draw on Friday that could put her against No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the third round.

Williams is returning to the grass-court tournament for the first time since 2016 after missing it last year while pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter in September.

She is ranked outside the top 150, but the All England Club decided to seed her 25th based on past success, which includes collecting seven of her 23 Grand Slam singles trophies at Wimbledon. Williams’ first-round opponent when play begins on Monday will be 107th-ranked Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, who has one career tour title.

WIMBLEDON: Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

Williams is competing for the first time since she pulled out of the French Open ahead of a fourth-round showdown against five-time major champion Maria Sharapova in early June, citing an injured chest muscle. That was Williams’ return to Grand Slam action after a 16-month absence.

Rus has only once been as far as Wimbledon’s third round, back in 2012. That was the last time she won a match at the All England Club. She was beaten in the first round of qualifying a year ago, as were both of the women Williams could meet in the second round, 136th-ranked qualifier Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria and 167th-ranked wild-card recipient Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Republic.

Svitolina has only once been as far as the fourth round.

Williams’ possible fourth-round opponent, 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys, made one quarterfinal appearance, while the 36-year-old American’s potential quarterfinal foe, reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, has never been beyond the fourth round.

Williams could face her older sister, five-time champion and 2017 runner-up Venus Williams, in the semifinals. The ninth-seeded Venus Williams opens against 62nd-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden, who is 0-7 at Wimbledon.

The Williams sisters are not in the doubles draw. They have won 14 Grand Slam titles as a pair, including six at Wimbledon.

In the top half of the women’s singles bracket, the quarterfinals could be French Open champion Simona Halep vs. two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, and defending champ Garbine Muguruza vs. No. 6 Caroline Garcia. In the bottom half, No. 2 Wozniacki was drawn to face Svitolina, while 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens could play No. 7 Karolina Pliskova.

The potential men’s quarterfinals in the top half are eight-time champion Roger Federer vs. 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Kevin Anderson, and 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic vs. No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov. In the bottom half of the bracket, it could be two-time Wimbledon winner Rafael Nadal vs. 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, and No. 4 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 7 Dominic Thiem.

Two-time champion Andy Murray will face 48th-ranked Benoit Paire in the first round. It’s a rematch of Murray’s fourth-round victory over the Frenchman at the All England Club in 2017.

That was Murray’s last win before he sat out nearly a year because of an injured hip that was surgically repaired in January.

He returned to action last week and so is ranked only 156th and unseeded at Wimbledon, which he won in 2013 and 2016.

Murray could face 26th-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada in the second round.

The top-seeded Federer’s opening opponent on Monday will be 57th-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia. Their only previous meeting anywhere came in Wimbledon’s second round last year, when Federer won in straight sets en route to the title.

No. 2 seed Nadal, whose 17 Grand Slam titles trail only Federer’s 20 among men, faces 129th-ranked Dudi Sela of Israel on Tuesday. Nadal has won both of their previous matchups.

Men’s first-rounders to keep an eye on include Dimitrov against three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, who is still working his way back into form after knee surgery; 12-time major champ Novak Djokovic against Australian Open quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren of the U.S.; and No. 23 Richard Gasquet against Gael Monfils in a matchup of Frenchmen.

Two women who lost a Wimbledon final against Serena Williams will meet in the first round when former No. 1 and two-time major champion Angelique Kerber plays qualifier Vera Zvonareva. Kerber was the runner-up in 2016, Zvonereva in 2010.

Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion who is seeded 24th, could face 2017 French Open champion and 12th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko in the third round, and Kvitova in the fourth.

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Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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