- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND (AP) - Defending champion Serena Williams was bumped up to No. 8 in the seedings _ 18 places above her world ranking _ for Wimbledon on Wednesday, a position that will allow her to avoid playing the highest-ranked players until at least the quarterfinals.

Williams won her 13th Grand Slam title last year at the All England Club, but then stepped on broken glass, eventually leading to blood clots on her lungs.

Williams was out of action for nearly a year before she returned to competitive tennis on Tuesday at Eastbourne. She rallied from a set down to beat Tsvetana Pironkova 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The draw for Wimbledon, which starts Monday, is scheduled for Friday.

On the men’s side, defending champion Rafael Nadal was seeded No. 1, followed by Novak Djokovic at No. 2, Roger Federer at No. 3 and Andy Murray at No. 4 _ in line with their rankings.

Federer and Nadal have combined for the past eight titles at the All England Club.

For Federer, it’s the first time he’s been outside the top two seedings at Wimbledon since 2003, the year he won the first of five straight titles at the grass-court Grand Slam.

Since Serena’s injury, she has dropped to No. 26 in the WTA rankings. If Wimbledon organizers had seeded her according to her ranking, the four-time Wimbledon champion could have come up against a top player in the third round.

Her sister, Venus, a five-time Wimbledon champion, was seeded No. 24. She has dropped to 33rd in the rankings since missing most of this season with a hip injury. She also returned to action this week in Eastbourne.

“The seeding order follows the WTA ranking list, except where in the opinion of the committee, a change is necessary to produce a balanced draw,” Wimbledon organizers said. “The only changes this year are Serena Williams and Venus Williams moving to 8 and 24, respectively. This reflects the balance between their proven records and also their lack of competitive play in the past 12 months.”

The sisters have combined to win nine of the last 11 titles at the All England Club.

At the top of the women’s seeding list is top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. She is followed by Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters at No. 2, Vera Zvonareva at No. 3 and French Open champion Li Na at No. 4.

Another former winner, 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, was seeded No. 6, one behind Victoria Azarenka.

Clijsters, who has won three major titles since coming out of retirement in 2009, aggravated an ankle injury on Tuesday in a loss at the Unicef Open and is in doubt for Wimbledon.

The second-ranked Belgian originally hurt her right ankle while dancing barefoot at her cousin’s wedding in April. She played at the French Open, but lost in the second round.



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