If Andy Murray and Fabrice Santoro had selected their own first-round opponents in the draw for Wimbledon, which begins on Monday, there is a fair chance they would have nominated each other.
Not only does Murray regard Santoro as one of his favourite players but he also knows that, at 35, the crafty Frenchman is not the threat he once was. For his part Santoro realises that being drawn against the British No 1 in what could be his final year on the tour should help him realise one of his last ambitions, to play singles on Centre Court. Murray won their only previous match, in Paris at the end of last year, in straight sets.
Santoro, who plays double-handed on both forehand and backhand, was nicknamed "The Magician" by Pete Sampras in recognition of his subtle spins, lobs and drop shots. "You won't see a game style like his probably for the rest of my career," Murray said. "He's just a completely different player, plays some unbelievable shots. I love watching him."
The world No 53 has appeared in more Grand Slam tournaments (63) than anyone in the Open era and has played 19 of the 23 players who have been world No 1 since the rankings were launched 35 years ago. However, he has only ever played doubles on Centre Court and revealed in these pages earlier this week that he had asked Andrew Jarrett, the Wimbledon referee, if he could play there this year.
The request looks sure to be granted and the Frenchman could make a return trip in the doubles. In the first round Santoro and Marc Gicquel face Jamie Murray, Andy's brother, and Max Mirnyi.
Andy Murray should also be reasonably happy about his potential opponents in the second and third rounds, Denis Gremelmayr (world No 71), or Xavier Malisse (No 229, but a former Wimbledon semi-finalist) followed by Tommy Robredo (No 18), a clay-court specialist. The Scot's projected fourth-round opponent is Richard Gasquet, who lost to Roger Federer in last year's semi-finals, while Rafael Nadal, the world No 2, would probably lie in wait in the quarter-finals.
Novak Djokovic, the world No 3, is in Federer's half of the draw. The defending champion, who has won 59 grass-court matches in succession, could have a tricky opener against Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty, one of the few players with a positive head-to-head record against him, having won both their previous meetings, albeit in 2000 and 2004.
In the third round Federer could face Gael Monfils, who took a set off him in the French Open semi-finals, while Lleyton Hewitt, the last winner at Wimbledon before the Swiss began his run of five successive titles, could meet him in the fourth.
Apart from Murray there are three other British men in the draw. Alex Bogdanovic and Jamie Baker, who were given wild cards, meet the Italians Simone Bolelli and Stefano Galvani respectively, while Chris Eaton's reward for coming through three rounds of qualifying as world No 659 is a meeting with Serbia's Boris Pashanski.
Anne Keothavong, the world No 93 and the first British female to merit an automatic place in the main draw for nine years, meets the American Vania King (world No 94), while Elena Baltacha also has the chance to progress against Germany's Angelique Kerber (No 125).
The three other British women have significantly harder tasks. Katie O'Brien and Mel South face seeds in Shahar Peer and Alona Bondarenko respectively, while 19-year-old Naomi Cavaday, who had two match points before losing to Martina Hingis in last year's first round, meets Venus Williams, the defending champion.
Williams had heard of Cavaday – "Didn't she play well here last year?" – but said she would not go out of her way to find out more about her. "Most of the time I just figure things out in the warm-up and go from there," she said. "Ultimately, my opponent can't hit the ball until I hit it, so I've just got to figure out what's happening on my side of the net."
Although Williams said she had never thought as far ahead as the 2012 Olympics at Wimbledon – indeed it was news to the 28-year-old that the All England Club will host the Games in four years' time – she has no plans for retirement. "I love my job and I spent so much time off injured that I feel like I even have extra time because of that," she said. "There are millions of people who want to be living this dream, so I'm going to live it for as long as I can."
Williams had no worries about her continuing ability to raise her game at her favourite tournament. "I have a magic button that I can only press four times a year," she said. "I like to think that when the occasion is the biggest I can pull my game up to the level I need to get to."
Asked for her favourite Wimbledon memory, the four-times champion said: "The day after you win, when you wake up and you realise you are the Wimbledon champ. Everything seems perfect at that point in your life."
Luck of the draw: First round opponents for Wimbledon seeds
R Federer (Swit) (1) v D Hrbaty (Slovak)
A Beck (Ger) v R Nadal (Sp) (2)
N Djokovic (Serb) (3) v M Berrer (Ger)
B Becker (Ger) v N Davydenko (Rus) (4)
S Stakhovsky (Ukr) v D Ferrer (Sp) (5)
A Roddick (US) (6) v E Schwank (Arg)
F Dancevic (Can) v D Nalbandian (Arg) (7)
R Gasquet (Fr) (8) v M Fish (US)
C Rochus (Bel) v J Blake (US) (9)
M Baghdatis (Cyp) (10) v S Darcis (Bel)
T Berdych (Cz Rep) (11) v E Korolev (Rus)
F Santoro (Fr) v A Murray (GB) (12)
M Daniel (Br) v S Wawrinka (Swit) (13)
P-H Mathieu (Fr) (14) v O Hernandez (Sp)
R Ginepri (US) v F Gonzalez (Chile) (15)
R Stepanek (Cz Rep) (16) v J Hernych (Cz Rep);
S Roitman (Arg) v M Youzhny (Rus) (17)
S Stadler (Ger) v I Karlovic (Croa) (18)
N Almagro (Sp) (19) v M Granollers-Pujol (Sp)
L Hewitt (Aus) (20) v R Haase (Neth)
J C Ferrero (Sp) (21) v S Querrey (US)
P Kohlschreiber (Ger) v F Verdasco (Sp) (22)
T Robredo (Sp) (23) v K Vliegen (Bel)
W Odesnik (US) v J Nieminen (Fin) (24)
N Mahut (Fr) v D Tursunov (Rus) (25)
I Ljubicic (Croa) (26) v J Melzer (Aut)
N Kiefer (Ger) (27) v J Benneteau (Fr)
D Olejniczak (Pol) v G Simon (Fr) (28)
T Kamke (Ger) v A Seppi (It) (29)
C Guccione (Aus) v G Monfils (Fr) (30)
F Lopez (Sp) (31) v B Dabul (Arg)
M Llodra (Fr) (32) v M Ancic (Croa).
A Ivanovic (Serb) (1) v R De Los Rios (Par)
O Savchuk (Ukr) v J Jankovic (Serb) (2)
S Foretz (Fr) v M Sharapova (Rus) (3)
S Kuznetsova (Rus) (4) v M Johansson (Fr)
E Dementieva (Rus) (5) v M El Camerin (It)
K Kanepi (Est) v S Williams (US) (6)
V Williams (US) (7) v N Cavaday (GB)
S Dubois (Can) v A Chakvetadze (Rus) (8)
Chan Yung-jan (Taiw) v D Safina (Rus) (9)
S Errani (It) v D Hantuchova (Slovak) (10)
M Bartoli (Fr) (11) v S Katharin Lisicki (Ger)
P Schnyder (Swit) (12) v C Dellacqua (Aus)
V Zvonareva (Rus) (13) v A Nakamura (Japan)
I Benesova (Cz Rep) v A Radwanska (Pol) (14)
T Garbin (It) v A Szavay (Hun) (15)
V Azarenka (Bela) (16) v T Pironkova (Bul)
A Cornet (Fr) (17) v A Pavlyuchenkova (Rus)
Z Ondraskova (Cz Rep) v N Vaidisova (Cz Rep) (18)
V Dushevina (Rus) v M Kirilenko (Rus) (19)
F Schiavone (It) (20) v T Paszek (Aut)
O Govortsova (Belarus) v N Petrova (Rus) (21)
F Pennetta (It) (22) v J Vakulenko (Ukr)
J Goerges (Ger) v K Srebotnik (Sloven) (23)
S Peer (Isr) (24) v K O'Brien (GB)
R Voracova (Cz Rep) v L Davenport (US) (25)
S Bammer (Aut) (26) v S Arvidsson (Swe)
V Razzano (Fr) (27) v E Rodina (Rus)
M South (GB) v A Bondarenko (Ukr) (28)
A Mauresmo (Fr) (29) v A Harkleroad (US)
Zheng Jie (Chin) v D Cibulkova (Slovak) (30)
C Wozniacki (Den) (31) v E Hrdinova (Cz Rep)
C Castano (Col) v S Mirza (India) (32).Reuse content