Saturday, January 14, 2012

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Men's singles draw breakdown... Rafa and Fed in same half for first time in years

The Australian Open draw was revealed yesterday in Melbourne and for the first time in seven years world No2 Rafael Nadal and No3 Roger Federer find themselves in the same half of a Grand Slam draw.

The pair have not been drawn in the same half since the 2005 French Open, where they faced off in the semi-finals before Nadal beat the Swiss and went on to win his first of his ten Grand Slams.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic has fourth-seeded Andy Murray are on either side of the top half of the draw meaning a repeat of last year’s final between the duo is no longer a possibility but a mouth-watering semi-final could be in the cards.

The Djokovic Quarter

The world No1 faces Italian world No108 Paolo Lorenzi in the first round and the earliest seed he could bump into is in the form of No29 seed Radek Stepanek in the third round.

Potential fourth round opponents for Djokovic include No15 seed and four-time semi-finalist Andy Roddick, home favourite and former finalist Lleyton Hewitt, and rising star No23 seed Milos Raonic.

The Canadian youngster, who made the fourth round last year in Australia, is fresh off a title win in Chennai last week and is one of two up-and-comers Djokovic said could be a danger to his title defence.

Fifth seed David Ferrer is drawn to possibly face off with Djokovic in the quarter-finals but the Spaniard, who was a Melbourne semi-finalist last season, will have to tackle the likes of No17 seed Richard Gasquet and No9 seed Janko Tipsarevic first.

Quarter-final pick: Djokovic v Tipsarevic

The Murray Quarter

Before Murray could even think about meeting Djokovic in the semis, the Scot must first get past a tricky opener against American upstart Ryan Harrison.

Harrison is yet to get past the second round in a Major but the 19-year-old stretched Ferrer to five sets at Wimbledon last year, has wins over top-20 players, and troubled Marcos Baghdatis in Brisbane last week.

Murray could face talented Latvian Ernests Gulbis or No32 seed Alex Bogomolov Jr. in the third round, with a potential blockbuster fourth rounder looming ahead against No14 seed Gael Monfils.

Doha champion and former Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is seeded sixth and stands in Murray’s way in the quarter-finals.

Quarter-final pick: Murray v Tsonga

The Federer Quarter

Federer, who at 30 years of age is in search of a fifth trophy in Melbourne and a 17th Grand Slam title opens against a qualifier and his first test could come up against serving machine Croatian Ivo Karlovic in the third round. Aussie youngster Bernard Tomic, who made the Wimbledon quarters last year is a fourth round candidate for the Swiss along with No13 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov or No22 seed Fernando Verdasco – a semi-finalist in 2010.

No8 seed Mardy Fish or No11 seed Juan Martin del Potro are potential quarter-final draws for Federer, but first they have to square off in the fourth round.

Quarter-final pick: Federer v Del Potro

The Nadal Quarter

2010 champion Nadal will play a qualifier in the first round with the first seed in his path being No28 seed Ivan Ljubicic in the third round.

His good friend and fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez is enjoying a career high ranking and the No18 seed could meet Nadal in the fourth round, but it will have to be at the expense of the likes of No16 seed John Isner or David Nalbandian.

Seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych is drawn to face Nadal in the quarters but the Czech has to overcome some tough opponents like Stanislas Wawrinka (No21), Baghdatis and Nicolas Almagro (No10) first.

Quarter-final pick: Nadal v Berdych

First rounders to look out for

Bernard Tomic v Fernando Verdasco [22]
Ivo Karlovic v Jurgen Melzer [31]
Viktor Troicki [19] v Juan Carlos Ferrero
Janko Tipsarevic [9] v Dmitry Tursunov

Second rounders to look out for

Andy Roddick [15] v Lleyton Hewitt
Richard Gasquet [17] v Mikhail Youzhny
Stanislas Wawrinka [21] v Marcos Baghdatis

Third rounders to look out for

Roger Federer [3] v Ivo Karlovic

Fourth rounders to look out for

Gael Monfils [14] v Andy Murrray [4]
Rafael Nadal [2] v John Isner [16]
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [6] v Gilles Simon [12]
Novak Djokovic [1] v Milos Raonic [23]


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