Aussie Duckworth to face Demon in Wimbledon opener

Wimbledon hope Alex de Minaur will play his first-round match against in-form Australian compatriot James Duckworth following post-draw drama at the All England Club.

Ninth seed de Minaur had orginally been pitted against unpredictable French player Corentin Moutet in Friday's draw which has put him on a collision course for a quarter-final with seven-time champion Novak Djokovic.

But less than three hours after the draw had been completed, Moutet withdrew from the Championships with a wrist injury, offering up a dream opportunity for Duckworth, who had been knocked out in the final round of qualifying, to play his fellow Sydneysider de Minaur as a 'lucky loser'.

Second seed Djokovic is set to play just weeks after undergoing knee surgery and has been practising all week at the All England Club. His first-round opponent will be Czech qualifier Vit Kopriva.

But while world No.55 Moutet had promised to be an unpredictable flair opponent, Duckworth, the world No.78 who's having a revival at 32 after an injury-scarred career, poses just as much danger to de Minaur, having recently reached a quarter-final on the Stuttgart grass. De Minaur won their only previous clash.

James Duckworth
James Duckworth has been drafted in as a late 'lucky loser' to play de Minaur. (EPA PHOTO)

With one Australian then at least guaranteed a second-round place, de Minaur is still favourite to meet 17th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round should the Canadian get past another Australian in Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first round.

A potential titanic fourth-round date with Hubert Hurkacz would also have to be negotiated for 'Demon' before any matchup with Djokovic.

In the women's singles, Aussie wildcard Ajla Tomljanovic, fresh from reaching the Birmingham Classic final, will face another Wimbledon duel with former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, three years after they clashed in an ill-tempered fourth-round contest at SW19.

In that match, won in three sets by the Australian, the fiery Latvian called Tomljanovic the "worst player on the Tour" after she had been accused of faking injury.

It ended with Ostapenko confronting Tomljanovic at the net, telling her: "Your behaviour is terrible, terrible. You have zero respect."

But Tomljanovic was adamant on Friday that there was no bad blood between the pair any more after also having met - and been beaten - by Ostapenko in Eastbourne in 2022 and at this year's Australian Open.

"We're cool, I would say," said Tomljanovic. "Look, for me, what happened is in the past."

Australian No.1 Daria Saville faces American Peyton Stearns, while Olivia Gadecki - who said it was a "dream come true" to reach the main draw - will play a battle of the qualifiers against US teenager Robin Montgomery.

With Duckworth's late inclusion, 11 Australian men feature in the singles draw, with qualifier Alex Bolt landing the most difficult assignment against Norway's eighth seed Casper Ruud as reward for battling through an amazing qualifying week.

The 31-year-old South Australian was called up to play at Roehampton on Monday as an alternate following the late withdrawal of another player just 10 minutes before he was due on court.

Bolt went on to win all three of his matches, including a fightback from two sets and match-point down in his final encounter on Thursday against Switzerland's Leandro Riedi, and he now must confront two-time French Open finalist Ruud.

Reigning men's champion Carlos Alcaraz will open up on Monday against Estonian qualifier Mark Lajal, with Australian Aleksandar Vukic in line to meet him if he can get past tough Austrian Sebastian Ofner.


Men's singles

9-Alex de Minaur v James Duckworth

Chris O'Connell v 13-Taylor Fritz (USA)

Aleksandar Vukic v Sebastian Ofner (AUT)

Jordan Thompson v Pavel Kotov (RUS)

Thanasi Kokkinakis v 17-Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)

Alexei Popyrin v Thiago Monteiro (BRA)

Adam Walton v Federico Coria (ARG)

Max Purcell v Otto Virtanen (FIN)

Rinky Hijikata v Flavio Cobolli (ITA)

Alex Bolt v 8-Casper Ruud (NOR)

Women's singles

Ajla Tomljanovic v 13-Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

Daria Saville v Peyton Stearns (USA)

Olivia Gadecki v Robin Montgomery (USA)