Andy MURRAY faces the prospect of having to beat world No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic if he is to reach a third successive Australian Open final. The Scot has been handed a tough draw for the season’s first grand slam event after being placed in the same half as the Serbian and the same quarter as a trio of dangerous Frenchman – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon.
Murray, who continued his preparation with a straight-sets exhibition victory over David Nalbandian at Kooyong, was also handed a potentially tricky opener against 19-year-old American Ryan Harrison – ranked 84 and one of the rising stars on the ATP Tour.
While he should come through that match, he faces a possible fourth-round meeting with Monfils, a quarter-final against Tsonga and then a semi against Djokovic. Should he emerge from the top half then either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer are likely to lie in wait in the final.
Nadal and Federer both start against qualifiers, while Djokovic meets Italian Paolo Lorenzi first up.
He will be happy with his draw although a possible third-round clash against Canadian Milos Raonic or American Andy Roddick could prove testing.
Federer is slated to meet Mardy Fish in the last eight while Nadal could take on Tomas Berdych.
Meanwhile, Kim Clijsters has shrugged off any concerns over a hip injury as she prepares to defend her women’s crown. Clijsters is drawn in the same quarter as world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, while a repeat of last year’s final against Li Na is scheduled for the fourth round. Should she come through that then Wozniacki and third seed Victoria Azarenka are scheduled to lie in wait.
An earlier foe could be Britain’s Elena Baltacha, who could face Clijsters if she beats Stephanie Foretz Gacon in round one.
Wozniacki opens against Anastasia Rodionova while Serena Williams was paired with Tamira Paszek.
Home favourite Samantha Stosur meets Sorana Cirstea in her first match after being placed in the same quarter as Petra Kvitova, who opens against Russia’s Vera Dushevina.
Azarenka was drawn against Heather Watson, whose fellow Brit Anne Keothavong was paired with Mona Barthel.