By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Andy Murray leads the field as the World No. 1 for the first time in his career
- Bidding to win the title for the first time, after reaching the final five times.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Andy Murray starts the year as the World No. 1 and leads the field in the first Grand Slam of the year – The Australian Open.
Andy Murray Draw Predictions (On ranking/seeding)
World No. 1 Andy Murray bids to win the Australian Open for the first time and we take a look at who could be in his way.
Round 1: Illya Marchenko – H2H: Murray leads 1-0
Murray actually faced down the Ukrainian in the Australian Open back in 2011, and coasted through in straight sets in the second round. As starts go – this is quite a good one but the challenge will be the time of day he will play – mid afternoon on what could be a Melbourne scorcher.
Round 2: Yen-Hsun Lu – H2H: Murray leads 4-1
Few will forget the bruising loss to Lu at the Beijing Olympics in the opening round but any wariness of his pedigree has since been dealt with as Murray has won their last four encounters in straight sets.
Round 3: Sam Querrey  – H2H: Murray leads 7-1
His first seed is likely to be US stalwart Querrey. He seems to have been around forever but can still spring the odd surprise. This will be a good test for Murray and his usually excellent returning skills.
Round 4: Lucas Pouille  – H2H: Murray leads 3-0
We might have expected more from the Frenchman as he has raced up the rankings and is sure to be a real Slam contender for our friends across the Channel. But so far Pouille has not really found an answer to Murray’s game despite his own obvious flare – it is not like he can’t beat some of the best either.
Quarter-final: Kei Nishikori  – H2H: Murray leads 8-2
Now here it starts to get a little trickier. Nishikori has a similar quick-thinking court-nous presence to Murray and he proved it with his hard fought win over the Brit at the US open last year, not to mention pushing Murray on his return to the tour after the birth of his daughter, in a Davis Cup five setter.
On paper, of course this is Murray’s to win. But expect this one to be a grind.
Semi-final: Stan Wawrinka  – H2H: Murray leads 10-7
This gets a little closer to the bone. Wawrinka is a former champion here against all the odds, and is now just one Wimbledon away from a career Grand Slam! In Murray’s favour though is his win over the Swiss on the clay at Roland Garros last year, on his way to a first French Open final.
Murray has won the last two outings between them – but again this one could be one of those bruising five set epics that Wawrinka is so adept at wringing out of his opponents.
Final – Novak Djokovic  – H2H: Djokovic leads 25-11
The ultimate challenge in every sense. It was fitting that the World No. 1 status was decided at the end of last year in the final match of the season, and first blood went to Djokovic this year as he fought to defend his Doha title.
This Slam means a lot to the Serbian – it was his first and it is a court he is very comfortable in. Can the knight steal it in battle on the final Sunday. We hope so, but it will take Murray’s finest tennis in the last three rounds to get the job done.
The Australian Open takes place between 16-29 January, and Murray starts his campaign on Monday.
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