Djokovic, Fed­erer on op­po­site sides of draw

The Chatham Daily News - - SPORTS - JOHN PYE

MEL­BOURNE, Aus­tralia — Roger Fed­erer and No­vak Djokovic are aim­ing for the same record from op­po­site sides of the draw, leav­ing open the prospect of them play­ing in the fi­nal for a sev­enth Aus­tralian Open ti­tle.

Top-ranked Djokovic and de­fend­ing cham­pion Fed­erer en­ter the sea­son-open­ing ma­jor equal with Roy Emer­son, who won his six Aus­tralian sin­gles cham­pi­onships be­tween 1961-67, be­fore the Open era.

Ser­ena Wil­liams al­ready has won seven Aus­tralian Open sin­gles ti­tles, and is a strong con­tender to add an­other after skip­ping last year’s tour­na­ment while on leave after hav­ing a baby.

Now seeded 16th, Wil­liams was drawn into the same sec­tion Thurs­day as No. 1-ranked Si­mona Halep, the run­ner-up last year. The pair could meet in the fourth round.

Djokovic starts at the top of the draw and will open against a qual­i­fier. Things could get much tougher quickly, with a po­ten­tial sec­ond-round meet­ing against wild-card en­try Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga, who he beat in the 2008 Aus­tralian fi­nal, and with Canada’s De­nis Shapo­valov in the same sec­tion.

Eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who opened the sea­son with a ti­tle in Bris­bane, is a po­ten­tial quar­ter­fi­nal ri­val and No. 4 Alexan­der Zverev looms as a semi­fi­nal op­po­nent if both play­ers ad­vance that far.

The 25th-seeded Shapo­valov, from Rich­mond Hill, Ont., will open against 82nd-ranked Spaniard Pablo An­du­jar.

One of the most in­trigu­ing men’s first-round matches fea­tures 16thseeded Mi­los Raonic of Thorn­hill, Ont., a 2016 Wim­ble­don fi­nal­ist, against mer­cu­rial Aus­tralian Nick Kyr­gios, who is un­seeded after his rank­ing slid from No. 13 into the 50s, but has tour-level wins over Fed­erer, Nadal and Djokovic to his credit.

Fed­erer, who has won the last two at Mel­bourne Park in a ca­reer resur­gence, is in the bot­tom half of the draw with sec­ond-ranked Rafael Nadal, who is re­turn­ing from an in­jury lay­off.

Aim­ing for a 21st Grand Slam tro­phy and a 100th ca­reer sin­gles ti­tle, Fed­erer will open against De­nis Is­tomin. And with No. 6 Marin Cilic in the same quar­ter, there’s po­ten­tial for a re­match of the 2018 fi­nal a few rounds early.

“I’m so close, I’ll give it a go,” Fed­erer said. “If I made 100 at the Aus­tralian I’d take it, I’d gladly ac­cept it — and I’ll give it all I have.”

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