By Niall Clarke
- Andy Murray faces Alexander Zverev in the first round of the Australian Open
- Dan Evans faces Feliciano Lopez
- Aljaz Bedene meets Steve Johnson
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA- Andy Murray faces Alexander Zverev as a triple threat of British players begin their Australian Open campaigns on the men’s side.
Britwatch Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules
The British number one is due second on Margaret Court Arena, and will start roughly at 1PM local time (2AM GMT).
Murray is not the only British player in action however. After coming all the way through qualifying, Dan Evans has been rewarded Feliciano Lopez as a first round opponent. British number two Aljaz Bedene will face America’s Steve Johnson.
Murray faces ‘tough’ Zverev test
The world number two’s quest for his first title in Melbourne begins with a man who he comfortably beat less than two weeks a go in the Hopman Cup.
The Brit came through 6-3, 6-4 in Perth, but is wary of the challenge his opponent possesses. Zverev made the second round here last year, beating Kevin Anderson in the opening round.
“He’s still filling out his physique but he’s got a very good game and he serves well,” said Murray as reported on BBC Sport.
“For a big guy, he moves pretty well too. He’s obviously improving all the time, so it will be a tough match.”
Murray has lost four finals here, including last year against world number one Novak Djokovic. However this year he has a fairly good draw having avoided the Serb and Roger Federer until the final.
Zverev is seen as one game’s rising stars, and at just 18 years old he has got a long way before reaching his prime. Ranked at 83rd in the world and rising, the German is already a fine player but it is a test that Murray will be expected to pass.
Evans looking to continue rankings climb
Having fallen as far as 772 in the world recently, Evans is seemingly working his way back up the rankings. The Birmingham native came through qualifying to the main draw where he faces the 18th seeded Lopez in round one.
“It wasn’t nice [to be ranked so low] but it’s the sport we play and obviously I’ve come out the other side, and I am hopefully going up the rankings now,” the 25 year old told BBC Sport.
Evans will go in as a major underdog against the Spaniard, who despite being 34 years old, is playing some of the best tennis of his career. The left hander has a big serve, good feel at the net and possesses a fairly tricky slice.
However, the Brit is no stranger to causing an upset. In 2013 he put in arguably his greatest performance to defeat Kei Nishikori in the US Open first round. He backed it up by defeating Bernard Tomic in the second.
Evans is due second on court 13, meaning he will likely be playing at the same time as his compatriot Murray.
Bedene meets Johnson in opener
The British number two has also been dealt with a fairly tough draw against the 31st seed, Johnson, albeit it is a much better draw than he got last year.
Bedene, still representing Slovenia at the time, was easily dispatched by Djokovic at this stage last year and will be relieved not to be facing one of the elite again in 2016.
“I know Johnson plays well,” Bedene told the Daily Mail.
“He hasn’t started the season that good, but he has a great serve, a great forehand. But I know his weaknesses and I know that if I play well then I’ve got a good chance.”
The 25 year old pulled out of the ASB Classic last week with a hip injury but remains confident that he is 100% fit and ready for the first grand slam of the year.
The pair will contest their first meeting after the conclusion of Evans vs Lopez.
Wawrinka and Nadal in action
Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka is due last on Margaret Court arena to face Dmitry Tursunov of Russia in his first round match. The Russian is a former top 20 player.
Rafael Nadal faces Fernando Verdasco in a rematch of their 2009 semi final epic. On that day the former world number one outlasted his compatriot to win in five sets. Will we see similar drama when they step onto Rod Laver arena again?
Australian number one, Bernard Tomic will garner the local interest. David Ferrer, who is projected to meet Murray in the quarter finals is also in action.
The Australian Open continues at 11am local (0:00 GMT) Tuesday.
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