Murray must overcome Federer road block en route to Australian glory
Andy Murray will play Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko in the first round of the Australian Open and could meet Roger Federer in the last eight.
Murray, the world number one and top seed, was drawn in the same quarter as Federer, who is seeded a lowly 17th after missing the second half of last season through injury.
The Scot is chasing a fourth grand slam title and his first in Melbourne, where he has reached the final five times.
In the women’s draw, Britain’s Johanna Konta, seeded ninth, was handed an opening tie against Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens.
Heather Watson and Naomi Broady will face Australian opponents, with Watson playing the experienced Samantha Stosur and Broady up against Daria Gavrilova.
There are three other British male participants. Kyle Edmund faces Santiago Giraldo, Dan Evans plays Facundo Bagnis, while Aljaz Bedene will play Victor Estrella Burgos.
Marchenko, ranked 93rd in the world, and potentially Yen-Hsun Lu in round two, represent a kind start for Murray but the 29-year-old’s route could become tougher from the third round on. The British number one is then due to meet big-serving American Sam Querrey, who beat Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year, before a potential fourth round match-up with Frenchman Lucas Pouille.
Pouille demonstrated his threat by beating Rafael Nadal at the US Open in September.
Federer was always the banana skin in the draw but Murray would certainly start as favourite against the 35-year-old, who is playing his first competitive tournament since Wimbledon. Fifth seed Kei Nishikori is arguably a more likely opponent in the last eight.
Stan Wawrinka is Murray’s potential semi-final opponent before another possible showpiece against second seed Djokovic, to whom the Briton has lost four previous finals here.
Djokovic, a six-time Australian Open champion, surrendered the world number one spot in November but undoubtedly remains Murray’s biggest threat. The Serb will play Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in round one.
Murray said: “Hopefully I can get by him this year but he’s definitely my biggest rival and someone I’ve been competing against for over 18 years now.”
Tricky path: Andy Murray