Australian Open: Murray to face qualifier in R1

Andy Murray practises today with his coach Amelie Mauresmo at Melbourne Park. Roger Federer, below

Andy Murray practises today with his coach Amelie Mauresmo at Melbourne Park. Roger Federer, below

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Andy Murray could be forgiven for having a sense of déjà vu after today’s draw for the Australian Open, which starts in Melbourne on Monday.

For the second year in succession, Murray, who takes on a qualifier in the opening round, was placed in the same half of the draw as Rafael Nadal, with Roger Federer again his potential quarter-final opponent.

Swiss star Federer beat Murray in four sets at the same stage in 2014 before losing to Nadal in the semi-finals, the Spaniard going on to lose to Stanislas Wawrinka in the final.

Wawrinka opens his defence against Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan, with top seed Novak Djokovic drawn to face a qualifier, while Nadal has a tricky start against unpredictable Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Federer will play Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan.

Murray, who is seeded sixth, is also scheduled to meet Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round, the 23-year-old Bulgarian he lost to in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year.

British No.2 James Ward, who qualified through his world ranking for the first time, was handed a tough draw against 31st seed Fernando Verdasco, but has the added incentive of a possible third-round clash with Djokovic.

Compatriots Liam Broady and Kyle Edmund will join Ward and Murray in the main draw if they can win their respective matches in the final round of qualifying tomorrow.

In the women’s event, British No.1 Heather Watson will take on Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, who at 67th in the world is ranked 18 places below Watson.

Top seed Serena Williams was drawn against Belgium’s world No. 106 Alison van Uytvanck, with second seed Maria Sharapova up against a qualifier as well.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, who is not seeded this year after an injury-plagued 2014, takes on American Sloane Stephens, who made the semi-finals in 2013, in the first round, with eighth seed Caroline Wozniacki scheduled to face the winner. Third seed Simona Halep plays Italy’s Karin Knapp in the first round with Wimbledon champion and fourth seed Petra Kvitova up against a qualifier.