Early tests at Aus­tralia Open

The Herald (South Africa) - - The Herald Classifieds -

Dou­ble de­fend­ing cham­pion Roger Federer will start his bid for a hat-trick of Aus­tralian Open ti­tles next week against un­seeded Uzbek De­nis Is­tomin, who caused a huge up­set when he de­feated No­vak Djokovic in the sec­ond round two years ago.

The draw for the first Grand Slam of the sea­son was made on Thursday and the top seeds could face some early tests of their ti­tle cre­den­tials from Mon­day.

Six-times Aus­tralian Open cham­pion Federer, who beat Marin Cilic in last year’s fi­nal, could meet the Croat in the quar­ter­fi­nals, should the Swiss come through a po­ten­tially tricky fourth round against Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas of Greece.

The 37-year-old, seeded third, is bid­ding to ex­tend his all-time lead­ing men’s Grand Slam record to 21 ti­tles and would cap­ture a 100th ATP tour­na­ment win in the process.

“I al­ways have tried to re­mind my­self that this is a dream,” Federer said of his longevity at the draw cer­e­mony held at Mar­garet Court Arena, where he dis­cov­ered the world No 99 would be his open­ing op­po­nent.

“I’m sur­prised I’m still at this level, still in the top 10.”

Men’s top seed Djokovic, who was de­fend­ing his ti­tle when he lost to Is­tomin, will first meet a qual­i­fier in his bid for a record sev­enth Mel­bourne ti­tle and third Grand Slam crown in suc­ces­sion fol­low­ing wins at Wim­ble­don and the US Open.

Serb Djokovic could then play a re­match of his 2008 fi­nal tri­umph over French­man JoWil­fried Tsonga in the sec­ond round, with a pos­si­ble quar­ter­fi­nal against Kei Nishikori to fol­low.

Sec­ond seed Rafa Nadal, un­der an in­jury cloud af­ter pulling out of the Brisbane In­ter­na­tional, will open against un­seeded lo­cal James Duck­worth.

Last year’s semi­fi­nal­ist Kyle Ed­mund looms as a pos­si­ble fourth-round match-up for the Spa­niard, who could then face big-serv­ing Kevin An­der­son in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

The 2009 cham­pion Nadal, who re­tired hurt in the 2018 quar­ter­fi­nals against Cilic, could then meet old ri­val Federer in the last four.

In the women’s tour­na­ment, Ser­ena Wil­liams’s bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam ti­tle and eighth at Mel­bourne Park will kick off against Ger­man world No 71 Tat­jana Maria.

The Amer­i­can great faces a tough run to the quar­ter­fi­nals, with top seed and last year’s fi­nal­ist Si­mona Halep a pos­si­ble fourth-round en­counter.

Halep, how­ever, has drawn her US Open nemesis, un­seeded Es­to­nian Kaia Kanepi.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Caroline Woz­ni­acki, who broke through for her maiden Grand Slam ti­tle with vic­tory over Halep in last year’s fi­nal, is in line to face for­mer win­ner Maria Shara­pova in a mouth­wa­ter­ing third-round show­down.

Pic­ture: ASANKA BREN­DON RAT­NAYAKE/AFP

DE­FEND­ING CHAMP: Roger Federer, of Switzer­land, hold­ing the men’s sin­gles tro­phy, waves to the crowd dur­ing the draw for the Aus­tralian Open ten­nis tour­na­ment in Mel­bourne on Thursday

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