Australian Open - DRAW: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in opposite halves
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 6988
The season's first Major event starts on Monday at Melbourne Park. One hundred twenty-eight players will fight for the Australian Open trophy and 2000 ATP points, and the two main stars are in opposite halves. The defending champion Rafael Nadal is the top seed.
He faces the young Briton Jake Draper in the first round, which could be tricky for a 22-time Major winner. Rafa has been struggling since the summer, playing only 11 matches after Wimbledon and hoping for a better run in Melbourne.
Nadal lost both encounters at the United Cup and will have to play well to oust Draper, who has reached the Adelaide semi-final. Karen Khachanov, Frances Tiafoe, Hubert Hurkacz, Denis Shapovalov, Sebastian Korda and Daniil Medvedev are all in the top quarter, and Nadal will have to bring his 120% to advance into the semis.
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime are the top-ranked players in the second quarter. Tsitsipas should face Lorenzo Musetti or Jannik Sinner in the fourth round, seeking another good result Down under after already playing in the semi-final.
Auger-Aliassime faces his compatriot Vasek Pospisil in the first round ahead of the potential duels with Borna Coric and Cameron Norrie. Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic is the favorite in the third quarter. Novak missed the last year's Australian Open and will try to restore the order, especially after winning the 92nd ATP title in Adelaide last week.
Djokovic faces Grigor Dimitrov, Aslan Karatsev, Alex de Minaur and Pablo Carreno Busta en route to the quarter-final, with no one standing a chance of beating him if the Serb is at 100% physically.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are among the Australian Open favorites.
Holger Rune, Nick Kyrgios and Andrey Rublev are the potential quarter-final opponents, and it will be interesting to see who will challenge the most dominant player at this event.
Rublev plays against Dominic Thiem in one of the opening-round matches to watch. Casper Ruud and Taylor Fritz lead the bottom quarter. In another classic, Fritz could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round if the German brings his A-game following a nasty injury.
Matteo Berrettini plays against a former finalist Andy Murray in the first round, and his rival in the fourth round should be the 2nd seed, Casper Ruud.