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Men’s draw preview: Federer, Djokovic chase historic seventh Australian Open title

The men’s draw for the 2019 Australian Open looks tantalising. Very, in fact. The projected match-ups are ones to really look forward to, while some of the first-round match-ups has promised a gripping event.

Top seed, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who’s seeded second, are both tied at six Australian Open titles and they find themselves in opposite halves of the draw, which means they won’t cross paths until the final.

Djokovic, after a scintillating second half of 2018, returns to Grand Slam action at Melbourne Park, a ground he’s triumphed six times. This year, if he’s to clinch a record seventh Australian Open title and third straight Grand Slam crown, he will have to negotiate a tricky path, successfully.

The Serb, 31, opens his account against a qualifier in the first round and could be in for a stern test in the second round against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, who he defeated in the Australian Open final 11 years ago. In the third round is a potential match-up with Next Gen superstar, Denis Shapovalov. In the same quarter as Djokovic lies Kei Nishikori, who started his 2019 season with a title at the Brisbane International. Nishikori and Djokovic could meet in the quarterfinals, with fourth seed, Alexander Zverev looming in the semis, provided the players go that far Down Under.

Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open six times, and is seeking a record seventh title.

At 37, Roger Federer is gunning for more glory. In sight is a third consecutive Australian Open title, a 21st Grand Slam crown and a staggering 100th career singles title. While he admits that achieving those feats will be great, he is “not trying to look too far ahead.”

“99 is already an incredible number. I’m so close, I’ll give it a go. Every tournament I go to people might talk about it,” said the Swiss. “But if I made 100 at the Australian I’d take it, I’d gladly accept it and I’ll give it all I have.”

Federer is in the bottom half of the draw with Rafael Nadal and being in the same quarter as sixth seed, Marin Cilic, means he could face the Croat, who he beat in last years’s final, in the quarterfinals. Federer, though, must get past Denis Istomin in the opening round, first. Should he negotiate safely through the rounds and deep into the tournament, then, a blockbuster semifinal showdown with Rafael Nadal could be on the cards.

 

Nadal, ten years on from his last triumph at the event, will take on James Duckworth in the first round. Rising star, Alex De Minaur, Britain’s Kyle Edmund, and fifth seed, Kevin Anderson lie in Spaniard’s quarter.

Away from the famed big guns, we have mouthwatering first-round clashes. Mercurial Aussie, Nick Kyrgios will take on 2016 Wimbledon finalist, Milos Raonic. Kyrgios, who reached the quarterfinals here in 2015, will hope to be in top shape to fend off the big-serving Canadian.

Also, Andy Murray, who recently revealed that the Australian Open could be the final tournament of his career, will square off against Roberto Bautista-Agut, who clinched the Qatar Open title a week ago, in the first round.

Murray, a five-time finalist at this event, has suffered from a persistent hip injury which has kept him off tour for most parts of the last 18 months. The former world number one hasn’t fully recovered and says he can no longer cope with the pain. The first-round match against the in-form Bautista-Agut may prove to be the last straw for the Brit, or it may not. Whichever way, it takes nothing away from his greatness and the colourful career he’s had.

The 2019 Australian Open is live from Melbourne Park from 14 — 27 January.

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