Sunday, January 15, 2017

Roger Federer gets Murray in the quarters, and an overall tough draw at Aussie Open

Andy Murray could have a tricky path to becoming the last man standing in Melbourne, while Novak Djokovic has an equally treacherous road in pursuit of a seventh Australian Open crown.

Top seed Murray opens up his quest for his first Australian Open title against Illya Marchenko, with the Brit winning their lone meeting at the 2011 edition of this tournament. Looking ahead, Murray could face No. 16 seed Lucas Pouille in the fourth round and either No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori or No. 17 seed Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.

Second seed Djokovic was given a very tricky first-round against veteran Fernando Verdasco. The Serbian leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 9-4, including a third-round victory in the 2015 edition of this tournament. However, he was forced to save five match points in prevailing over Verdasco earlier this month in the semi-finals in Doha. The Spaniard is also more than capable of upsetting big names in early rounds, as evidenced by his first-round win last year in Melbourne over Rafael Nadal.

Should Djokovic advance, he could play No. 15 seed and recent Brisbane champion Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round, followed by eighth seed Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals.

Federer was given a comparatively kind opener in his first sanctioned tournament since Wimbledon, with the Swiss maestro guaranteed to play a qualifier in his first two rounds. His path gets significantly harder afterwards, though, with potential matches against No. 10 seed Tomas Berdych in the third round, Nishikori in the fourth round and Murray in the quarter-finals.

Ninth seed Nadal starts out his campaign Down Under against Florian Mayer. A mouth-watering third-round clash against No. 24 seed and #NextGenATP star Alexander Zverev looms ahead, while an equally entertaining fourth-round clash against sixth seed Gael Monfils is also on the cards.

Third seed Milos Raonic will need to be on his game from the first ball when he plays the always-flashy Dustin Brown in his first match. No. 13 seed and recent Chennai champion Roberto Bautista Agut is a likely fourth-round matchup, followed by a potential quarter-final clash against Monfils.

Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka kicks off his search for a second Australian Open crown against Martin Klizan. The 2014 champion is on course to face No. 14 seed Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round and seventh seed Marin Cilic in the last eight.

Another notable first-round match includes the return of former World No. 2 Tommy Haas, who will square off against Benoit Paire. The German is competing in his first tournament since Vienna in October 2015.

Wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis withdrew from the men’s singles draw due to injury. His spot will be filled by a lucky loser from the qualifying draw.

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