Nadal begins defence against Russell

London: Rafa Nadal and Michael Russell, two players from opposite ends of the tennis spectrum, open proceedings on Centre Court on Monday as the 125th Wimbledon championships get under way.

Spaniard Nadal, the world number one and defending champion, has claimed nine grand slam titles at the age of 25, while American Russell, aged 33, is bidding to reach the second round of a grand slam for just the fifth time.

Nadal, fresh from a mini-break back in Mallorca where he brushed up on his golf swing, should make short work of Russell who has never beaten a top-10 player, although he will remember Roger Federer`s dice with danger 12 months ago in the first round against Alejandro Falla.

Britain`s Andy Murray, hoping to become his country`s first men`s grand slam champion for 75 years, will be full of confidence as he follows Nadal on to Centre Court to face Spain`s Daniel Gimeno-Traver.

Murray, winner at Queen`s Club last week, is a potential semi-final opponent for Nadal who prevailed when they met at that stage last year.

Sandwiched in between is last year`s French Open champion Francesca Schiavone from Italy who takes on a familiar name at Wimbledon, Jelena Dokic from Australia.

In 1999 a 16-year-old Dokic caused one of Wimbledon`s greatest upsets when she beat then world number one Martina Hingis in the first round.

Should Russell, who has never won a tour title, come out on top on Monday, however, it would make Dokic`s feat look fairly routine and send shockwaves around the sport.

Also in action on Monday are three-times runner-up Andy Roddick against Andreas Beck and fellow American and five-times champion Venus Williams who tackles Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan.

Bureau Report

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