Djokovic, Federer land on opposite sides of Australian Open draw
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 secondround 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.”
But, he noted before heading out to practice after attending the tournament draw with his trophy, “the moment you find out the draw, that’s when you shift your focus to the first round and only the first round.”
Cilic was drawn into the same section as five- time finalist Andy Murray, who is coming back from a long- term hip injury and is set to open against No. 22- seeded Roberto Bautista Agut.
Murray won only two games in an incomplete practice match with Djokovic at Melbourne Park, showing signs he’s still not fully fit after spending most of the last 18 months off the tour. Murray played at the season- opening Brisbane International last week, where he won his first- round match against James Duckworth but lost in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev in the second, limping between points and admitting he’s still dealing with his troublesome right hip.
Williams will open against Tatjana Maria and could meet Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard in the second round. Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., will take on Chinese wild- card entry Peng Shuai in a battle of unseeded players.
Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., and Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., were both a win away from reaching the main draw after earning second- round qualification round victories Thursday.
Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning Wimbledon last July. Djokovic and Roger Federer are each chasing their seventh Australian Open championship, which would set a new record.