Defending champ Serena seeded No. 7 at Wimbledon

Associated Press
Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts during her singles tennis match against Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria at the Eastbourne International grass court tennis tournament in Eastbourne, England, Tuesday, June 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
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Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts during her singles tennis match against Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria …

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Defending champion Serena Williams was bumped up to No. 7 in the Wimbledon seedings — 19 places above her world ranking — 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 and needed two foot surgeries. She later had blood clots on her lungs, and missed nearly a year of competition.

She returned on Tuesday at Eastbourne, coming back from a set down to defeat Tsvetana Pironkova 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

She was originally seeded No. 8, but the withdrawal of second-seeded Kim Clijsters moved the rest of the field up one spot.

Wimbledon starts Monday. The draw 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 her injury, Williams 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 with two wins at 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.

"I just want to be in the draw," said Venus, who beat Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 6-2 Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals at Eastbourne. "I'm still in this tournament so that's pretty much my focus. For me the seedings not a big deal."

At the top of the women's seeding list is top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. She had been followed by Australian Open champion Clijsters at No. 2, but the Belgian withdrew from the tournament later Wednesday because of she injured her right foot on Tuesday at the Unicef Open in the Netherlands.

"I'm very disappointed to have to withdraw from Wimbledon after injuring my foot again," Clijsters said. "At this moment I feel frustrated that it has to happen now before one of my favorite tournaments. I've always enjoyed being a part of the Wimbledon atmosphere but I have no other choice now but to rest, recover and to not play tennis for a few weeks."

Clijsters has won three major titles since coming out of retirement in 2009. She 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.

Vera Zvonareva moved up to No. 2 and French Open champion Li Na was pushed up to No. 3. Another former winner, 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, was bumped up to No. 5, one behind Victoria Azarenka.

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