Fresh from winning his eighth French Open, Nadal is seeded only No. 5 at Wimbledon — setting up the possibility of a quarterfinal match against title contenders Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray.
The All England Club released the seedings Wednesday for this year’s grass-court Grand Slam, which starts Monday. The top five in the ATP rankings remain in their positions: Djokovic at No. 1, followed by Murray, Federer, David Ferrer and Nadal.
Nadal slipped down the rankings after being sidelined for about seven months with a left knee injury following his surprise loss to Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon last year.
The Spaniard has won seven of the nine tournaments he has entered in his comeback — including the French Open last month — but he still fell to No. 5 after Roland Garros behind the man he beat in the final — Ferrer.
Wimbledon’s seeding order is determined using the ATP rankings and points are added for achievements in grass-court tournaments in the past 12 months.
The All England Club could have moved Nadal up to No. 4 ahead of Ferrer but decided to stick to the rankings.
The women’s seedings follow the WTA rankings, with five-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams at No. 1 and Victoria Azarenka at No. 2. Serena’s sister, Venus Williams, withdrew Tuesday, citing a back injury.
While Nadal was losing to then-No. 100 Rosol in one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history last year, Ferrer reached the quarterfinals for the first time in 10 attempts before losing in four sets to Murray.
Although clay is Ferrer’s best surface, he has twice won the Dutch grass-court title at Rosmalen. However, he lost his first-round match there this year to Xavier Malisse on Tuesday.
Nadal may have to beat all of the world’s top three players if he is to add to his Wimbledon titles in 2008 and ’10, two of his 12 Grand Slam championships. He will find out when the draw is held on Friday.
“I’d sign up to be in the quarterfinals against Rafa tomorrow if someone offered me that,” Murray said in his column for the BBC website. “You could say if I get through that match, then the semifinal might not be as tough, but if you want to win the biggest tournaments you have to beat the best players in the world.
“It doesn’t really matter where they are in the draw.”
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga jumped one spot in the seedings to No. 6, with Tomas Berdych dropping a place to No. 7. Marin Cilic, runner-up at the Queen’s Club tournament on Sunday, moves up to No. 10 from an ATP ranking of 12.
American player John Isner jumped from 21 to 18.