Mur­ray must over­come Fed­erer road block en route to Aus­tralian glory

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - Sport -

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

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