Rafael Nadal will face an early test in the shape of home favourite Bernard Tomic in a blockbuster first-round match at the Australian Open

Nadal draws Tomic in Melbourne opener



Originally published on 10/01/14

The world No.1 has been dealt a tough hand if he is to land his third Grand Slam title since returning from injury last February. Should the 2009 champion safely negotiate his way past the dangerous Australian, he could face Gael Monfils in the third round, with Juan Martin Del Potro a potential quarter-final opponent.

Tomic, who appears to thrive on home support, is currently in Sydney, where he will meet Juan Martin Del Potro in the final of the Apia Sydney International on Saturday. The mercurial 21-year-old has claimed some big scalps at his home Slam in recent seasons, and was stopped only by Roger Federer both last year and in 2012, and by Nadal in the third round in 2011.

With the top half of the draw loaded with big names, Nadal could meet Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in the semi-finals, if the Scot makes it that far on his return from a back injury. Murray, who lost an exhibition match to Lleyton Hewitt at the AAMI Classic on Friday, will meet Japan’s Go Soeda in the first round.

A mouthwatering quarter-final is in the offing, with the world No.4 seeded to face four-time champion Federer in the last eight. The Swiss, who is seeded sixth at Melbourne Park, meets Australian wildcard James Duckworth in Round One.

In the bottom half of the draw, defending champion Novak Djokovic, who is bidding to become the first man to win four consecutive titles in Melbourne, kicks off his campaign against Lukas Lacko. The Serb, who is on a 24-match winning streak, could face Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals, in what would be a rematch of their epic fourth-round match last year, in which Djokovic eventually prevailed, winning 12-10 in the final set.

Third seed David Ferrer is a likely semi-final opponent for Djokovic, although Ferrer shares his quarter of the draw with seventh seed Tomas Berdych, who has fallen in the quarter-finals for the past three years.

"Regardless of the draw, the potential opponents that I have in later rounds, I need to direct my attention to my next opponent,” said Djokovic, who attended the draw ceremony as defending champion. “There are plenty of players who are able to win the Australian Open this year or any other Grand Slam title."


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