Marathon men meet again as Murray feels in prime form for Wimbledon test

Andy Murray faces a potential Wimbledon semi-final rematch with defending champion Rafael Nadal.

But that was not the reprise that sent the All England Club into a flutter following yesterday’s draw for the 125th championships.

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut will meet again in the first round of Wimbledon, 12 months after playing the longest match in tennis history.

Last year, American Isner won a marathon encounter 6-4 3-6 6-7 (7/9) 7-6 (7/3) 70-68 that lasted 11 hours and five minutes, stretching over three days on Court 18.

There were immediately calls for the marathon men, who are in the bottom half of the draw along with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, to be put on Centre Court on Tuesday.

But surely a return to Court 18, where there is now a plaque dedicated to “The Longest Match”, would be more fitting.

Isner is ranked 46 in the world, 53 places above Mahut. The pair have become friends since their remarkable feat last year.

Even Murray’s immediate reaction was not about his own prospects, or the fact Nadal and Andy Roddick are in his half of the draw, but about the rematch.

“Isner v Mahut drawing each other in the first round after last year is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in tennis,” he said.

Murray will open his campaign on Monday against Spanish world No 56 Daniel Gimeno-Traver, whom he beat two years ago in their only previous meeting on the senior tour.

The British No 1 and fourth seed was beaten by Nadal in the semi-finals last year and by Roddick at the same stage in 2009.

Both men potentially lie between Murray and an appearance in his first Wimbledon final, with Roddick a likely quarter-final opponent.

Murray destroyed Roddick in straight sets en route to winning the title at Queen’s Club and he feels in prime form heading into Wimbledon.

“I am going into Wimbledon with the feeling I am going to win – you can’t go in with any other attitude,” said Murray.

Second seed Novak Djokovic and six-times Wimbledon champion Roger Federer are on the other side of the draw and are due to meet in the semi-finals.

British No 2 James Ward, who enjoyed a dream run to the semi-finals at Queen’s Club last week, received a tough draw in world No 25 Michael Llodra.

“I’m feeling really confident at the moment with the way I’ve been playing over the last few weeks on grass,” said Ward, who rose from 216 to 176 in the world following his Queen’s success.

“Llodra will be by no means an easy match. He’s got a really good grass court game, with a big serve and he serves and volleys a lot.

“He won Eastbourne last year so it will be tough but I’m really looking forward to it.

“The support I’ve had over the last fortnight has been amazing and, hopefully, myself and all the other British players will enjoy exactly the same at Wimbledon because it makes the world of difference.”

Fellow Britons Dan Cox and Daniel Evans were drawn to play Sergiy Stakhovsky and 20th seed Florian Mayer, respectively.

Britain will be guaranteed a presence in the second round of the women’s singles after the draw pitched Anne Keothavong against Naomi Broady.

Heather Watson will face Sweden’s Mathilde Johansson while Laura Robson has drawn Germany’s Angelique Kerber.

Emily Webley-Smith plays Klara Zakopalova and Hessle’s Katie O’Brien has been drawn against 40-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm.

The carrot of a potential second round meeting with former champion Venus Williams is being dangled but O’Brien is underdog against a veteran ranked 63rd in the world.

“She might be 40 but she’s one of the best athletes out there,” said O’Brien, 25, who is ranked 218th. “She has a few top-10 scalps to her name in the last year or two so it’s definitely not a match to be taken lightly.”

British No 1 Elena Baltacha opens against a qualifier.

“There are definitely some opportunities for the British girls, but as always we have to respect their opponents who all have good rankings,” said Nigel Sears, head of women’s tennis at the LTA.