By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Defending champion Novak Djokovic faces tough opener as the No. 2 seed
- Andy Murray head the field as the top seed.
- Kyle Edmund, Dan Evans and Aljaz Bedene make up the rest of the British male contingent.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Andy Murray leads the Slam field for the first time in his career while defending Novak Djokovic has a tricky start.
Top Quarter – Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori
It is a fair opener for the Brit, who reached the Doha final, losing to defending champion Novak Djokovic, in a quarter, which will most likely pit him against Sam Querrey as his first seed in the third round.
He looks likely to meet Lucas Pouille again and while the exciting Frenchman has been making strong strides up the rankings, he has tended to come up short against the Brit.
Meanwhile Roger Federer did not materialise as a potential clash for Rafael Nadal but instead is in Murray’s quarter. He could face Tomas Berdych in the third round – The Czech has not looked too convincing since bringing Goran Ivanisevic on board and his serve has not looked great, and Kei Nishikori will lurk as a potential fourth round for the Swiss. Nishikori of course ousted Murray from the US Open last year, and is not to written off as a real obstacle if the Brit wants to have a run at finally claiming the first Australian Open of his career.
Second Quarter – Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic
Stan Wawrinka could well be on a collision course with Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who may or may not be keen to show that he is motivated to improve his demeanour on court after a challenging year in 2016 in terms of attitude. Wawrinka has an edge to him where it comes to playing the big tournaments, having claimed the US Open at the end of last year. Aussie hopes, such as they are, also lie with the mercurial Bernard Tomic, whose run up has been a bit of a disaster, in a weak looking quarter. Marin Cilic should be a solid run for the quarter-finals.
Third Quarter – Gael Monfils, Milos Raonic
Could this be the Slam where Milos Raonic gets his breakthrough? Opening against Germany’s Dustin Brown, Raonic may have to battle his way past Gilles Simon who drew 100 unforced errors against Djokovic last year before a possible fourth round with either David Ferrer or Roberto Bautista Agut, who has already started the season with trophy-ware.
The potential third round clash though with Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal is the one to watch. Zverev had Nadal on the ropes at Indian Wells but the Spaniard’s experience saw him through, but he could well be the one to shake things up in this quarter. Nadal has looked committed on his comeback, but the Slam will be a great test of not only his fitness, but his mental readiness, especially with the voice of Carlos Moya now in his team.
Bottom Quarter – Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem
Cast your minds back to Doha where Djokovic battled through five match points against one Fernando Verdasco before stifling the Spaniard. Verdasco of course can be immensely frustrating in that regard – he may lack the mental strength to consistently upset the big seeds, but he can drag a match out of them. It would be no surprise if he puts Djokovic through the torment of at least four sets.
It might also be worth sparing a thought for Grigor Dimitrov whose spirited run to the Brisbane trophy showed that just maybe he might be living up to the potential he showed earlier in his career, as a possible fourth round opponent.
The Australian Open begins on Monday 16th January.
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