By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • All eyes will be on defending champion Roger Federer and World No. 1 as they try and repel the Next Generation
  • Also of keen interest will be the return of Novak Djokovic
  • Kyle Edmund is the sole Brit in the draw – and he gets Kevin Anderson as an opener.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Defending champion Roger Federer might have played down the chances of repeating a remarkable 2017, but how has the draw treated him?

 

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Top Quarter – Rafael Nadal, Marin Cilic

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The draw haas been pretty kind to World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, whose knees has kept him away from starting his season until last night’s Tie Break Tens. last year’s finalist starts with a fairly generous draw, and if we discount the fact that he retired in his only match against possible third round opponent Damir Dzumhur, his record over John Isner (who is likely to be in the fourth round) makes for far happier reading – having never lost to the big-serving American.

Waiting for him potentially at the other end of the bracket is Marin Cilic. The Croatian perhaps did not finish his stint at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals in quite the style he wanted but he seemed to have a little more pep towards the end of the season. He made the semi-final in Pune.

With the prospect of either Gilles Muller or Pablo Carreno Busta by the time the fourth round rolls around, he ought to feel fairly confident of another quarter-final under his belt.

With only one win though against Nadal in his career, including two hard-court losses to the Spaniard last year – perhaps that is as far as he will get.

Second Quarter – Grigor Dimitrov, Jack Sock

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ATP World Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov has a section stacked with qualifiers, and much is expected of the Bulgaria, and not only because of his run to his biggest titles to date in 2017 – but it will not be easy.

However, he will need to overcome Andrey Rublev who has been putting in the turns during season various season openers. Drafted into the Mubadala World Tennis Championships set up the Russian for a run to the Doha final.

His potential fourth-round opponents are either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has never lost to the Bulgarian, or Nick Kyrgios, who snapped a two-match losing streak against him in Brisbane, on his way to the title.

While Aussies would love for Kyrgios to be the one to win the title, he is already hobbled with tape, but his Brisbane win might seeing him riding the crest of a wave.

We might see a scattered seed here though – Jack Sock made a decent fist of his time in London, but struggled with his fitness at the Hopman Cup and was blown out of the water in Auckland. With Kevin Anderson at the other end of the bracket, he could well be the more likely to prevail – assuming he downs the sole British male player in the main draw, Kyle Edmund.

The Brit suffered a nasty looking ankle turn in Brisbane and wisely pulled out of Auckland as a precautionary measure. However this is a brutal start for Edmund – even allowing for the fact he dragged Anderson to five sets at Roland Garros last year on his favoured clay.

However, Edmund is much improved but has he got the consistency or indeed variation to take it to the US Open finalist?

 

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Third Quarter – Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev

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The real question is whether perennial work horse Dominic Thiem can shake off a virus that has really clobbered him so far this season. He has a decent enough looking draw, with a potential fourth round showing against either Roberto Bautista Agut, or Stan Wawrinka (who has yet to take the court in anger this season).

He has a pretty atrocious record against both of them, so we could see a shock exit here.

That being said the path to the final looks equally rough for Alexander Zverev who could well come up against older brother Mischa Zverev in the third round. It would be a first meeting for the brothers, and after Zverev the elder rose to the occasion last year, beating Andy Murray before the first week was out, we could expect another shock.

Also lurking in this section is the returning Novak Djokovic. Although his path includes a potential second round against Gael Monfils, it would still be a tough ask for the younger Zverev.

Bottom Quarter – David Goffin, Roger Federer

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Defending champion Roger Federer has already played down his chances of repeating his fortunes of last year, and opening against ex-Brit Aljaz Bedene, he can look forward to maybe a third round against Richard Gasquet and a fourth round against either Sam Querrey or Milos Raonic.

Instead consider this – David Goffin‘s end of season saw him down both Nadal and Federer on his way to the ATP World Tour Finals, and he looked impressive at the Hopman Cup. Would anyone be shocked to see him edge ever closer to a first Slam final?

The Australian Open starts on 15 January.

 

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