LONDON Rafa Nadal could face world number one Novak Djokovic, defending champion Roger Federer or home favourite Andy Murray as early as the Wimbledon quarter-finals after he was seeded fifth for the grasscourt major on Wednesday.
Friday's draw for the tournament, which begins at the All England Club on Monday, could now produce a nightmare scenario for top three seeds Djokovic, Murray and Federer if any of them end up being in the same quarter as 2008 and 2010 winner Nadal.
The Wimbledon seeding reflects Nadal's current ranking, with the Mallorcan behind fourth-ranked Spanish compatriot David Ferrer whom he beat to win an eighth French Open title this month.
Wimbledon is the only grand slam that does not automatically follow the men's rankings when seedings are decided. Instead, officials rely on a three-stage formula which also takes into account grass-court performances of the past two seasons.
As Nadal suffered a shock second-round exit in southwest London 12 months ago, after which his ranking slipped as he spent seven months on the sidelines with a knee injury, Wimbledon's seeding formula failed to bump him above Ferrer, who reached the quarter-finals last year.
John McEnroe, the retired three-times Wimbledon champion, said on Tuesday that it would be 'totally wrong' for 12-times grand slam champion Nadal to be seeded outside the top four.
"In my opinion there is no doubt he should be in the top four," American McEnroe said in a conference call.
"If he ran into Ferrer in the quarter-finals it would be the same old, same old because Ferrer is used to running into one of the big four in the last eight.
"But if Nadal played Djokovic in the quarters, or possibly Murray or Federer, that would be a big difference, and absolutely wrong for that to happen, in my opinion."
U.S. Open champion Murray had already resigned himself to a possible last-eight clash with Nadal.
"I know there will be a lot of interest in the draw this year as Rafael Nadal looks like being seeded fifth but as a player you can't get too obsessed about the draw," Murray had said in a column for the BBC website on Monday.
"I'd sign up to be in the quarter-finals against Rafa tomorrow if someone offered me that."
The Wimbledon seedings by and large reflected the current ATP rankings, with Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bumped up a place to sixth and Queen's Club runner-up Marin Cilic profiting from two spots to 10th.
There were no surprises among the women after five-times champion Serena Williams was named top seed ahead of Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in second and third in accordance with the rankings.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin and Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Fallon)